Cosmic dust found in Antarctic snow was likely birthed in a distant supernova millions of years ago. The dust’s interstellar journey eventually brought the material to Earth, where scientists discovered the ancient grains.
This dust stood out because it contains an iron isotope called iron-60, which is commonly released by supernovas but very rare on Earth. (Isotopes are versions of elements that differ in the numbers of neutrons in their atoms.)
In the search for elusive space dust, scientists analyzed more than 1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms) of surface snow that they gathered from a high-altitude region of Antarctica near the German Kohnen Station. In that location, the snow would be mostly free of contamination from terrestrial dust, the researchers reported in a new study.