Thursday, August 11, 2016

Evidence of a Supernova Found in Pleistocene Microfossil Record


Ludwig et al


Massive stars (M≳10M⊙), which terminate their evolution as core-collapse supernovae, are theoretically predicted to eject >10−5M⊙ of the radioisotope 60Fe (half-life 2.61 Ma). If such an event occurs sufficiently close to our solar system, traces of the supernova debris could be deposited on Earth. Herein, we report a time-resolved 60Fe signal residing, at least partially, in a biogenic reservoir. Using accelerator mass spectrometry, this signal was found through the direct detection of live 60Fe atoms contained within secondary iron oxides, among which are magnetofossils, the fossilized chains of magnetite crystals produced by magnetotactic bacteria. The magnetofossils were chemically extracted from two Pacific Ocean sediment drill cores. Our results show that the 60Fe signal onset occurs around 2.6 Ma to 2.8 Ma, near the lower Pleistocene boundary, terminates around 1.7 Ma, and peaks at about 2.2 Ma.

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