Near-Earth Supernova Explosions: Evidence, Implications, and Opportunities



There is now solid experimental evidence of at least one supernova explosion within 100 pc of Earth within the last few million years, from measurements of the short-lived isotope 60Fe in widespread deep-ocean samples, as well as in the lunar regolith and cosmic rays.

This is the first established example of a specific dated astrophysical event outside the Solar System having a measurable impact on the Earth, offering new probes of stellar evolution, nuclear astrophysics, the astrophysics of the solar neighborhood, cosmic-ray sources and acceleration, multi-messenger astronomy, and astrobiology. Interdisciplinary connections reach broadly to include heliophysics, geology, and evolutionary biology.

Objectives for the future include pinning down the nature and location of the established near-Earth supernova explosions, seeking evidence for others, and searching for other short-lived isotopes such as 26Al and 244Pu. The unique information provided by geological and lunar detections of radioactive 60Fe to assess nearby supernova explosions make now a compelling time for the astronomy community to advocate for supporting multi-disciplinary, cross-cutting research programs.

Brian D. Fields, John R. Ellis, Walter R. Binns, Dieter Breitschwerdt, Georgia A. de Nolfo, Roland Diehl, Vikram V. Dwarkadas, Adrienne Ertel, Thomas Faestermann, Jenny Feige, Caroline Fitoussi, Priscilla Frisch, David Graham, Brian Haley, Alexander Heger, Wolfgang Hillebrandt, Martin H. Israel, Thomas Janka, Michael Kachelriess, Gunther Korschinek, Marco Limongi, Maria Lugaro, Franciole Marinho, Adrian Melott, Richard A. Mewaldt, Jesse Miller, Ryan C. Ogliore, Michael Paul, Laura Paulucci, Mark Pecaut, Brian F. Rauch, Karl E. Rehm, Michael Schulreich, Ivo Seitenzahl, Mads Sorensen, Friedrich-Karl Thielemann, Francis X. Timmes, Brian C. Thomas, Anton Wallner
(Submitted on 11 Mar 2019)
Comments: 11 pages, 2 figures. Astro2020 Science White Paper submitted to the 2020 Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics
Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (astro-ph.HE); Nuclear Experiment (nucl-ex); Space Physics (
Cite as: arXiv:1903.04589 [astro-ph.SR] (or arXiv:1903.04589v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)
Submission history
From: Brian Fields
[v1] Mon, 11 Mar 2019 20:31:58 UTC (101 KB)

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