Artistic representation of the early solar disk with the use of a blue hibonite crystal, one of the first minerals in the solar system
Copyright: Copyright The Field Museum, University of Chicago, NASA, ESA and E. Feild (STScl)
Ancient and rare blue crystals from the dawn of the solar system confirm that the newborn sun was violently active, a new study reports. 1
"The sun was very active in its early life – it had more eruptions and released a more intense stream of charged particles," study co-author Philipp Heck, a curator at the Field Museum in Chicago, said in a statement. "I think of my son – he's three, he's also very active." [Solar Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Sun?]
However, it is a challenge to prove this "early active solar hypothesis" because it is difficult to find material that has captured the early sun and survived unscathed for billions of years.
"Almost nothing in the solar system is old enough to really confirm the activity of the early sun," Heck said in the statement.
To search for such evidence, the researchers analyzed samples of the Murchison meteorite that crashed in 1969 near the city of Murchison in the US State of Victoria. This meteorite, which is stored at the Field Museum in Chicago, comes from the early solar system and is known in the scientific community for its abundance of organic molecules.
Like the giant disk of gas and dust that surrounded the early sun. About 4.5 billion years ago, the earliest minerals began to form – microscopic, ice-blue crystals called Hibonites, the largest of which were only a few times Had a diameter of a human hair.
"They are probably some of the first minerals that has formed in the solar system," study author Levke Kööp, a cosmochemist at the University of Chicago, told Space.com.
If the early sun spewed out many high-energy particles, If some of them had broken down calcium and aluminum in the crystals and split these atoms into smaller atoms of neon and helium, these indications of an early active sun could have remained intact in the crystals for billions of years, and were incorporated into rocks that were
"While noble gases are often studied to destroy the No one has tried this with Hibonites before, "said Kööp." That's true The fact that they are very small and also because they are rare and difficult to remove from meteorites. "
The scientists analyzed the crystals using a modern mass spectrometer in Switzerland – a garage-sized machine, the chemical composition of a Can determine object. A laser melted tiny grains of hibonite crystals, and the mass spectrometer then analyzed its contents.
The mass spectrometer has been specially designed to search for traces of noble gases such as helium and neon. The researchers found a surprisingly large signal that clearly indicated the presence of helium and neon.
This may be the first concrete indication of the sun's long-anticipated early activity, researchers said.
"It's exciting that we could find this noble gas record in Hibonite because it's the early active sun hypothesis," Kööp said.
There was earlier evidence that the newborn sun was more active than it is today, like traces of radioactive beryllium-10 in ancient meteorites. However, it was possible that such beryllium-10 was not produced by early solar activity, but instead was taken over by the molecular cloud from which the solar system originated. In contrast, neon and helium are noble gases, meaning they never react with other chemicals. As such, their presence in the Hibonites indicates that they were formed in the crystals instead of being somehow trapped in the Hibonites.
Future research on ancient meteorite crystals could help reveal details about the protoplanetary disk of gas and dust around the sun, which eventually led to the planets, about how hot or cold different parts of this disk were.
"For example, helium is a very light element that is easily lost to minerals when heated," Kööp said. "The presence of helium in the Hibonite means that they were not heated much after the irradiation."
The scientists described their findings online on Monday (July 30) in the journal Nature Astronomy.