Grains of matter spewed by explosion offer clues to early star formation
ALMA (ESO, NAOJ, NRAO), A. Angelich; Visible light image: Hubble Space Telescope/NASA AND ESA; X-Ray image: NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory
OXON HILL, Md. — The remnant of a recent supernova contains nearly a star’s mass of dust. The dust’s presence provides strong evidence that similar explosions distributed dust that seeded bursts of star formation billions of years ago.
For astronomers, dust is a bit different from the stuff on your dresser. Dust forms in space when searing-hot atoms of carbon, oxygen and silicon cool and clump together into solid grains as large as a thousandth of a centimeter across. These grains permeate the cosmos, serving as springboards for star formation and as surfaces on which other atoms combine into complex molecules, including the building blocks of life.