In 1996, a rock from space was found in southwestern Egypt’s Great Sand Sea. The rock was odd, even by extraterrestrial standards, and a team of researchers studying the rock’s chemistry now propose that it came from a supernova—the brilliant, explosive collapse of a star.
The rock is named Hypatia, after a 4th-century Egyptian mathematician. Based on the pattern of 15 elements in a 3-gram sample of the stone, a team of researchers suspects Hypatia came from well beyond our stellar neighborhood, and emerged from the gas and dusty detritus that followed a distant star’s explosion. Their research is published in the journal Icarus.
The researchers think Hypatia came from a Type Ia supernova; these supernovae occur when white dwarves (the small, dense remnants of stars) consume so much material, often from a neighboring star, that they explode. That distinguishes Typa Ia from Type II supernovae, in which a large star’s core collapses, causing a massive explosion.
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