Astronomers Propose Low-Mass Supernova May Have Triggered The Formation Of The Solar System

With evidence from meteorites and new scientific models, astronomers have proposed that a low-mass supernova may have triggered the formation of the solar system.

Yong-Zhong Qian and his colleagues have provided evidence of not only the way in which the solar system was formed, but the possible trigger event that started it all.

The Beginning

Our solar system formed about 4.5 billion years ago, out of a dense cloud of gas and dust. At some point, the gas and dust cloud collapsed on itself and formed a nebula – or a spinning disk of various materials.

But what triggered the event? What made the “cloud” collapse on itself?

Even NASA has theorized that a supernova – or the shockwave of a nearby exploding star – could have caused the collapse. However the true nature of the supernova had yet to be confirmed.

A supernova is a good theory because a very high level of energy is needed to change the state of a gas and dust cloud to begin to pull inwards on itself, and a supernova provides that.

Qian and his team needed some form of evidence to back up the supernova theory. They chose to focus on short-lived nuclei. Short-lived nuclei leave behind isotopes, sort of personalized signatures, that indicate that they were around before. The evidence that short-lived nuclei were present billions of years ago has previously been supported by findings on meteorites.


Now, previously, earlier research has contended that a high-mass supernova caused the creation of our solar system. Qian and his team understood however that high-mass supernovae do not leave the same sort of evidence on meteorites that supports the short-lived nuclei theory.

They needed to provide an alternative consideration, an alternative proposal, to support their argument that a low-mass supernova could have caused the formation of our solar system.

To do so, the team looked at Beryllium-10, a short-lived nucleus common in meteorites. They showed that Beryllium-10 can be produced in both high- and low-mass supernova, but overwhelming evidence from the majority of meteorite records indicated that the low-mass supernova scenario was most likely.

Likewise, Qian and his colleagues showed that other short-lived nuclei, such as Palladium-107 and Calcium-41, were also found heavily in meteorites and indicate a low-mass supernova event.

The team’s aim now is to continue to explore several more short-lived nuclei to back up their new low-mass supernova theory.

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