PARIS – The next time you look out of the window looking for inspiration, remember the material you look through was thrown inside the heart of an exploding old star.
An international team of researchers said they had discovered silica – the main component of glass – in the remains of two distant supernovae billions of light years from the earth.
Researchers used NASA's Spitzer space telescope to analyze the light emitted by the collapsing mega cluster and get the "fingerprints" of the silica based on the specific wavelength of the light the material is known to emit.
A supernova occurs when a large star burns through its own fuel, causing a catastrophic collapse that ends in an explosion of galactic proportions. It is in these celestial currents that individual atoms melt together to form many common elements, including sulfur and calcium.
Silica accounts for about 60 percent of the earth's crust and a certain shape, quartz, is an important ingredient in sand.
As well as glass windows and fiberglass, silica is also an important part of the recipe for industrial coupons.
"For the first time, we have shown that silica produced by supernovae was large enough to contribute to the dust of the entire universe, including the dust that finally came together to form our home planet," said Haley Gomez of Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy .
"Every time we look through a window, walk down the sidewalk or get stuck on a sandy beach, we interact with material made of explosive stars that burned many years ago."
In 2016, researchers reported that they had found traces of lithium – a metal used in the manufacture of many modern electronics – in the heart of exploding nova, a phenomenon that occurs when a white dwarf star absorbs hydrogen from a nearby sun.
The study was published in the monthly announcements of Royal Astronomical Society.