Most scientists dream of having a “Eureka!” moment – the precious moment when you realize that you have discovered something new, wonderful and significant.
In movies, we imagine it occurring with a swell of epic music and perhaps some well-tuned lightning strikes. As Professor Ryan C. Ogliore of Washington University in St. Louis tells it, however, the research group he was on had a more anticlimactic build-up to their breakthrough.
“The first thing you think is, ‘Oh, there’s something we’re doing wrong,’ Ogliore explained. ‘So we change things around and look at it again. If the weird thing is still there, then you think you have something good. “
To be thorough, Ogliore and his team tested the anomalies they studied in a variety of ways, but over and over again, their research yielded the same hopeful conclusion.
“That when I was really sure this was the right answer,”
Their findings? Ogliore – working with colleagues Lionel G. Vacher (who led the team), Clive Jones, Nan Liu and David A. Fike – had studied an ancient meteorite and learned that a long-dead massive star played an instrumental role in the creation of our solar system. . It is a discovery they say could one day be used to find the building blocks of life in other solar systems.
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Some background: After NASA’s Genesis mission in 2011 returned solar wind samples, scientists discovered that oxygen isotopes on the sun differ from those found on Earth. The most likely explanation was that the cosmic material that would later be formed for our planets was struck by a burst of ultraviolet light.
But where did the light come from? Researchers have failed to explain their findings – until now.
Vacher, Ogliore and their research team found the answer in Acfer 094, a piece of an ancient asteroid found as a meteorite in Algeria more than 30 years ago. In addition to being one of the oldest meteorites ever discovered, it is also the only meteorite that contains cosmic symplectite – or very heavy oxygen isotopes.
Ogliore then came up with the idea of measuring sulfur isotopes in cosmic symplectity to study the ancient ultraviolet radiation that accompanied the birth of our universe.
Their breakthrough, as published in the journal Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry Act, was the discovery that the light did not match the UV spectrum that would have come from our young sun – meaning that the light should have come from a nearby star.
“We conclude that the Sun’s star stars, probably O and B stars in a massive star-forming region, influenced the composition of the solar system’s urban building blocks,” the authors of the study wrote. They concluded by pointing out that the isotopanomalies are not consistent with the type of ultraviolet radiation of the gaseous hydrogen sulfide produced by the young sun. However, it is consistent with irradiation of hydrogen sulfide from nearby massive stars.
Therefore, they believe that “a plausible scenario for the solar birth environment” is that it happened in “a large star cluster with at least one massive star (type O or B) nearby.”
As Ogliore explained to Salon, this is a very big deal.
“I think the goal of what I do and what scientists like me do is to understand the formation of the solar system,” Ogliore observed. “We know that the formation of planetary systems like ours is not uncommon in the universe or in the galaxy. I believe that understanding the formation of our solar system gives us an understanding of this general property. It is super important because probably life out there is also there in the other planetary systems. “