For years, scientists have assumed that the sun is an enormous mass of hydrogen. But in a paper presented before the American Astronomical Society, Dr. Oliver Manuel, a professor of nuclear chemistry at UMR, says iron, not hydrogen, is the sun's most abundant element.
Manuel claims that hydrogen fusion creates some of the sun's heat, as hydrogen -- the lightest of all elements -- moves to the sun's surface. But most of the heat comes from the core of an exploded supernova that continues to generate energy within the iron-rich interior of the sun, Manuel says.
"We think that the solar system came from a single star, and the sun formed on a collapsed supernova core," Manuel says. "The inner planets are made mostly of matter produced in the inner part of that star, and the outer planets of material form the outer layers of that star."
Manuel's theory that the solar system was born catastrophically out of a supernova goes against the widely-held belief among astrophysicists that the sun and planets were formed 4.5 billion years ago in a relatively ambiguous cloud of interstellar dust. Iron and the heavy element known as xenon are at the center of Manuel's efforts to change the way people think about the solar system's origins.
Born of a supernova
Manuel believes a supernova rocked our area of the Milky Way galaxy some five billion years ago, giving birth to all the heavenly bodies that populate the solar system. Analyses of meteorites reveal that all primordial helium is accompanied by "strange xenon," he says, adding that both helium and strange xenon came from the outer layer of the supernova that created the solar system. Helium and strange xenon are also seen together in Jupiter.
Manuel has spent the better part of his 40-year scientific career trying to convince others of his hypothesis. Back in 1975, Manuel and another UMR researcher, Dr. Dwarka Das Sabu, first proposed that the solar system formed from the debris of a spinning star that exploded as a supernova. They based their claim on studies of meteorites and moon samples which showed traces of strange xenon.
Data from NASA's Galileo probe of Jupiter's helium-rich atmosphere in 1996 reveals traces of strange xenon gases -- solid evidence against the conventional model of the solar system's creation, Manuel says.
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