Live radioisotopes as signatures of nearby supernovae

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Nearby (≲1 kpc) supernovae were almost certainly common in earth's geological history. Such events allow the direct study of their freshly synthesized live radioisotopes, opening new windows onto supernovae. Very close supernovae (within a few tens of pc) may deposit radioisotopes directly on the earth. Recent high-sensitivity accelerator mass spectrometry measurements of deep-ocean samples find live 60Fe at levels that greatly exceed background, suggesting an explosion occurred within 30 pc during the last 5 Myr. Somewhat more distant - but also more frequent - supernovae leave observable signatures of radioisotopes whose decay includes γ-ray line emission. In particular, a large, old supernova remnant was recently discovered at ∼100 pc, and appears to contain 26Al. If confirmed, this would be the first detection of 26Al in a single remnant, and would be a new probe of supernova nucleosynthesis and astrophysics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-123
Number of pages5
JournalNew Astronomy Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Nucleosynthesis
  • Supernovae
  • γ-rays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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