What is a supernova?
A supernova explosion is a natural process that ends the life of most massive stars. With the development of technology, astronomers have been able not only to document supernova explosions available to the naked eye but also to study such astronomical phenomena in galaxies that can only be observed through the most powerful telescopes.
In a new research, geophysicists found surprising connections between supernovae that happen close to the Solar System and Earth. Basically, cosmic explosions of this magnitude scatter heavy atoms, energy, and radiation through space. If it happens close enough to our system, it could greatly affect the processes on Earth and change the evolution of our planet.
Are nearby supernovae linked to the processes that occur on Earth?
Scientists decided to go more in-depth and focused their research on data on nearby supernovae that occurred in the most recent 3.5 billion years. What they found was a correlation between the amount of dead organic matter in sedimentary rocks and the number of supernovae explosions.
According to scientists, nearby supernovae could influence the development of ecosystems on Earth. Cosmic rays from the explosions enter our atmosphere and influence the formation of clouds. This then has a noticeable effect on the temperature changes in different regions on the planet. It serves as a kind of ‘boost’ for sea currents and atmospheric winds, which transport more nutrients globally, thus influencing the development of ecosystems.
A high concentration of nutrients leads to greater bio productivity and more intensive disposal of organic matter in sediments. Warmer climates are characterized by weaker winds and less mixing of the oceans, which leads to a decrease in the supply of nutrients and a decrease in biological productivity, so less organic matter is buried.
Scientists found complete correlations between the concentrations of nutrients and the changes in supernovae occurrence. They measured trace elements in pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, which is sedimented on the bottom of the sea. More precisely, they focused on the organic impurities in the samples, which are determined by the changes in the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 isotopes.
Combined with previous studies on the link between cosmic rays and cloud formation, scientists believe they found a real interconnection between supernovae explosions and life on Earth. As data shows, the planet’s climate changes depending on the intensity of cosmic rays that enter our atmosphere.
Namely, a higher number of nearby explosions causes a decrease in temperatures – a colder climate, and the difference in temperatures between the polar and equatorial regions increases. These changes influence the transportation of organic matter to sediments, which is an indirect oxygen source for our planet. Therefore, supernovae explosions have a strong influence on oxygen production and logically – on life on Earth.
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• EurekAlert! (n.d.). Supernovae and life on Earth appears closely connected.
• O’Neill, M. (2022, January 8). Remarkable connection discovered between supernovae and life on Earth. SciTechDaily.
• Svensmark, H. (2022, January 5). Supernova rates and burial of organic matter. AGU Journals.
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