As important as stars exploding in the sky millions of years ago were to the development of land, sea, and life itself, a complete picture of their workings has yet to be composed.
Scientists recently made one very interesting discovery about supernovae, however, and they found the important clues at, of all places, the bottom of the ocean. In examining a layer of seafloor sediment, researchers learned that regular supernovae may not have had much to do with the delivery of key heavy metals.
Though their analysis of the 25-million-year-old particles turned up the expected amounts of the lighter and mid-weight elements, there was a notable scarcity of some very important hefty ones. Particularly lacking were the weighty radioactive variety, which play an important role in the movement of continents.
The team concluded that such metals must not have, in fact, been delivered here by typical stellar explosions, as has been long believed. Rather, it’s more probable that an entirely different sort of dynamic event sprinkled them across the Earth’s surface.
Topping the list of possible alternatives is the very powerful happening of two neutron stars merging together, but more research will be needed to identify and verify the actual source.