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A nearby «cradle of stars» helps us understand the formation of the solar system

An area of active star formation located in the direction of the constellation Serpentine gives astronomers new clues to understanding the conditions under which the “birth” of our solar system took place. In particular, one new study of the star-forming complex of the Ophiucus shows how our solar system may have been enriched with short-lived radioactive elements, reported by Gadgets.

Astronomers have been finding evidence of such an enrichment process since 1970 when scientists investigating certain mineral inclusions in the matter of meteorites concluded that these inclusions were remnants of the primordial matter of the early solar system and contained decay products of short-lived radionuclides. These radioactive elements could have been injected into the nascent solar system by a nearby exploding star (a supernova) or could come as part of stellar wind streams blowing from a massive star in a class referred to as a Wolf-Raye star.

The authors of the study, led by John Forbes of the Flatiron Institute, USA, used multi-wavelength observations of the Serpentine star-forming region, including new infrared data, to reveal interactions between clouds of star-forming gas and radionuclides formed in a nearby cluster of young stars. The team's findings suggest that supernovae lying in a star cluster are the most likely source of short-lived radionuclides in such star-forming clouds.

According to the authors, data they obtained with space gamma-ray telescopes made it possible to detect gamma-rays emitted by the short-lived radionuclide aluminum-26. Analysis of these data helped identify the source of the nuclide: with a 59 percent probability it is supernovae, and the probability that the nuclide comes from different sources, not just from supernovae, is 68 percent, the authors said.

The work is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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