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Universe's 'element factories' studied

Oct. 5, 2011 at 8:27 PM   |   Comments

TEL AVIV, Israel, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Exploding supernovas provide windows into the history of the universe and Israeli astronomers say they've observed a record-breaking number of them.

Tel Aviv University researchers uncovered 150 supernovas in an area of the sky known as the Subaru Deep Field and say 12 of them were the most distant and ancient ever observed, a TAU release said Wednesday.

The research was done in collaboration with teams from a number of Japanese and American institutions and used the Japanese Subaru Telescope in Hawaii on the 14,000-foot summit of the extinct Mauna Kea volcano.

Supernovas are called nature's "element factories," as every element in the universe heavier than oxygen was created in the nuclear reactions occurring in supernova explosions.

Elements formed in those cosmic explosions were flung into interstellar space where they served as raw materials for new generations of stars and planets -- and everything else.

"These elements are the atoms that form the ground we stand on, our bodies, and the iron in the blood that flows through our veins," TAU astronomer Dan Maoz said.

Astronomers say by tracking the frequency and types of supernova explosions back through cosmic time they can reconstruct the universe's history of element creation.

Topics: Mauna Kea
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