Got Sand In Your Shoe Blame These Exploding Stars

first_img New data suggests that silica—one of the most prevalent minerals on Earth—is formed when massive stars explode.As familiar as the oxygen we breathe and the water we drink, silicon dioxide (SiO2) is most commonly found in nature as quartz, and can be used to make concrete, glass, and electronic devices.Its ubiquity on our planet is not surprising: Silica dust exists throughout the Universe. It even predates our Solar System.But its formation remains a mystery.A recent study, however, points to the detection of silica in two supernova remnants—Cassiopeia A and the less modishly named G54.1+0.3.When a star more massive the the Sun runs out of fuel, it collapses into itself, creating an intense explosion that can fuse atoms together to make “heavy” elements like sulfur, calcium, and silicon.Using observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope’s Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) and computer models, researchers discovered elongated grains of silica in both supernova remnants.Taking their work a step further, the team combined data from Spitzer and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory to measure the amount of silica produced by each explosion.“The researchers looked at the entire span of wavelengths provided by both observatories and identified the wavelength at which the dust has its peak brightness,” the SETI Institute explained in a press release.That information can be used to calculate the temperature of dust, which, along with brightness, is necessary to determine mass.“The new work implies that the silica produced by supernovas over time was significant enough to contribute to the dust throughout the universe,” according to SETI, “including the dust that ultimately came together to form our home planet.”The full study was published last month in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.“It confirms that every time we gaze through a window, walk down the sidewalk, or set foot on a pebbly beach, we are interacting with a material made by exploding stars that burned billions of years ago,” the Institute said.More coverage on Geek.com:‘Nuclear Pasta’ May Be Strongest Known MaterialSupernova Shines Bright Like a Diamond, But How?These Lithium-Ion Batteries Harden on Impact, Won’t Catch Fire Hubble Space Telescope Spots Explosive GalaxyCaltech’s Cosmic Camera Captures ‘Ned Stark,’ ‘Jon Snow’ Shredding a Star Stay on targetlast_img read more