With the help of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an international team of researchers has found that supernovae can produce substantial amount of resilient material which can form planets like Earth. Ryan Lau of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York said “Our observations reveal a particular cloud produced by a supernova explosion 10,000 years ago contains enough dust to make 7,000 Earths.” The finding has been published in the journal Science.
Using SOFIA, the research team captured detailed infrared images of an interstellar dust cloud known as Supernova Remnant Sagittarius A East, or SNR Sgr A East. The SOFIA data helped the team to estimate the total mass of dust in the cloud. It was already known that outward-moving shock wave of a supernova can produce significant amounts of dust. Lau mentioned “The dust survived the later onslaught of shock waves from the supernova explosion, and is now flowing into the interstellar medium where it can become part of the ‘seed material’ for new stars and planets.”
Recent research also raises the possibility that huge amounts of dust observed in distant young galaxies are the outcome of supernova explosions. No other mechanism is known to produce such vast amount of dust. SOFIA is a heavily modified Boeing 747 jetliner, carrying a telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters at altitudes of 12 to 14 km.