Knight Tribune News Service

My Comments In This Color


ATLANTA- A new space telescope has revealed the

inner workings of a stellar factory that produces enormous

quantities of oxygen-what one astronomer called

"the real fountain of life"


This ties in to me, the need to consider the Biblical connections

to Supernova 1987a and Eta Carina



Scientists think most of the oxygen we breathe was

generated initially by a relatively small number of massive

exploding stars known as "supernovae".

Along with other elements-the raw materials of new stars

and planets-this precious gas eventually spread throughout

the universe, including our own solar system.


Without the supernova we would not exist.

Thus how we came into existence would seem

to involve bodies such as SN1987a and Eta Carina


"Such massive stars create lots of oxygen in their

nuclear furnaces", Massachusetts Institute of Technology

astronomer Claude Canizares said yesterday at the annual

meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

"It was explosions of such supernovae that permitted life on Earth".


That last sentence is one to really hang on to.

Without supernova we could not exist


Once life evolved on this planet, oxygen generation by bacteria

and plants became self sustaining.

Thus, humans today are not dependent upon supernovae for oxygen,

although such explosions continue to spread it through the cosmos.


The ring-shaped remnants of one such supernova-labeled E0102-72-

were studied on two occasions last fall by NASA's powerful

new Chandra E-Ray observatory.


When it blew up, the giant star, 15 to 25 times more massive

than our sun , was 200,000 light-years from Earth in the

Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the galaxies closest to our own Milky Way.

(A light-year is about 6 trillion miles).


The brilliant light from the starburst reached Earth about 1,000 years ago

and could have been visible to the naked eyes of people in Australia

or South America Canizares said.


Chandra, launched in July, carries an instrument called a high-energy

spectrometer that spreads out X-rays , much as a prism breaks up a

beam of light, into a rainbow of different wavelengths.

It recognizes each element, such as carbon, oxygen or iron, by

its unique wavelength.


The Chandra images showed that about half the gas expelled by

the exploding star was oxygen-an unexpectedly high amount.

Elements such as iron and magnesium also were manufactured,

but in lesser amounts.


The oxygen from this supernova alone would weigh as much

as 10 of our suns, and would be enough to supply 1,000 solar systems

like our own, Canizares said.

The gas formed inside the star, where nuclear fusion of primordial

hydrogen gradually built up heavier elements, such as carbon,

nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and iron.


"Understanding supernovae helps us to learn about the processes

that formed chemical elements like those which are found on Earth

and are necessary for life", said Kathy Flanagan another MIT astronomer.


" We have just seen a star rip its belly open and show us what's inside",

Canizares said. After the oxygen was "baked in the oven", he added,

it was "made available to those of us who like to take a breath".


The manufacture of oxygen and other elements in stars continues to this day.

An enormous supernova exploded in 1987 and more are expected

every 2 to 100 years. The last in our own galaxy was in 1602.


However , a huge southern star called Eta Carinae, 9,000 light years away

in the Milky Way may have already blown up during the time it  

takes its light to reach earth, according to Stephen Maran,

an astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Md.



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American Astronomical Society


Massachussetts Institute of Technology   Claude Canizares

Claude Canizares

Massachussetts Institute of Technology   Kathy Flanagan

Kathy Flanagan

NASA Chandra E Ray  Observatory