Our own Big Bang - the "miniature" supernova that sparked our own solar system!
Most people have a nebulous idea about how the solar system came into being. There was gas, and dust, and pressure - kind of like eating too much Taco Bell - and then, poof! A star and a few planets show up, ready to start causing trouble..
Well, that might be enough for some, but lots of us are more interested in finding out the particulars of how we ended up here on this weird-ass planet instead of evolving into hyperintelligent space bacteria in Jupiter's atmosphere or something instead. Well, it all goes back to what caused the band to get together in the first place.
So what did cause a region of space in a the ass end of the Orion arm of the Milky Way spontaneously turn into our solar system? There's plenty of theories, but most just kind of involve a shrug and a "I dunno lol" attitude.
This did not satisfy me. Of course, lots of things don't satisfy me - like gas station coffee - so I just kind of went on with my life, generally frustrated and annoyed but smug that I at least spent some time thinking about things of this magnitude.
That's when I came across a new research journal article on the subject. It turned into this story I wrote up for my day job, but it stuck with me - and I just had to share.
The Big Bada Boom
Turns out our solar system got our own miniature version of the Big Bang around 4.6 billion years ago in the form of a nearby star that went supernova, resulting in enough pressure and energy to coalesce into our sun. The erst of the gas and dust left over after this turned into a wide, flat ring of material around the new sun - called a protoplanetary disc - and that material eventually formed all the material in our star system thanks to gravity, tidal forces, and just plain old happenstance.
The research study goes further, saying that not only was it a supernova that caused all this but specifically a "low-mass supernova," or in other words a star that wasn't that big as far as stellar masses go. You know, smaller than Kanye's ego.
So how the hell did they figure that one out? I mean the whole supernova explosion makes sense as a theory - stellar explosions eject all sorts of crap into space, and the shockwaves alone from a supernova can end up triggering Big Kahuna-style waves of energy that even the Silver Surfer would wipe out on. But how in the world did they figure it was a low-mass supernova?
It's All About the Isotopes, Baby
For those who have no good goddamn idea about what I'm talking about, an isotope is a variant type of element with a different number of neutrons in their atoms. They're still the same element, but they actually have different atomic weights. They're also usually radioactive, or more radioactive, than the core element, and their radioactive decay rate is distinguishable and measurable versus their core element.
Isotopes of particular elements only show up under certain circumstances. The scientists in this study were looking at samples from the meteorite record and noticed that, at the birth of the solar system, there was a shitload of a Beryllium isotope, Beryllium-10. You know what creates Beryllium-10? Explosions. Really, really big explosions. The kind of explosions you see in, oh, I don't know, giant superheated balls of gas reaching critical mass and spewing their innards all over the local parsec. You know, kind of like what happens whenever Donald Trump tweets.
So truth be told there are a couple of different types of explosions that make Beryllium-10. But the amount of the isotope that was around 4.6 billion years ago can only come from one source, and a particular one at that: a low-mass supernova. It's not just Beryllium-10, though - there are other isotopes like Calcium-41 and Palladium-107 that are in our meteoritic record as well that can be explained the same way. Whether or not the same explosion is responsible for Blink-182 or Matchbox-20 is still unclear, however. Nickelback, though, is definitely proof of an uncaring, aloof universe unconcerned with our suffering.