Antarctica’s Snow is Made Partly Out of Stardust!

December 24, 2020 at 7:06 pm

In a recent analysis of snow from Antarctica, scientists made a surprising discovery – a good chunk of that white fluffy stuff is actually stardust.

A team of scientists recently collected 1000 pounds of snow from Antarctica, melted it, and sifted through the particles. To their surprise, the snow contained significant amounts of a type of iron that isn’t found naturally on Earth.

The other-worldly iron, called iron-60, has four more neutrons than Earth’s variety.

The super-heavy metal is the kind typically created, and spewed out, by massive, old, dying stars – or “supernova.”

Younger stars fling out lighter “metals” like carbon and oxygen, while the older a star gets, the heavier the metals it produces, Inside Science explains:

“Iron is usually the last element a star could produce while still generating energy, and after its last throes of life, it explodes.”

“It must have been a supernova, not so near as to kill us, but not too far to be diluted in space,” says Dominik Koll, a physicist at Australian National University.

Koll and his team published their analysis of the material in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The same rare iron isotope has been found previously deep in the ocean’s crust. But because of its depth, that iron-60 likely settled millions of years ago. The iron in Antarctica was found in fresh layers of snow that have accumulated over the past two decades.

Our planet probably picked up the stardust while traveling through the Local Interstellar Cloud, aka “Local Fluff.”

“This 30 light-year-spanning region, which our solar system is currently passing through and just about to exit, likely formed from exploding massive stars blowing out the hot gases in their outer layers into space,” Koll says.