Letter | Published:

The locations of recent supernovae near the Sun from modelling 60Fe transport

Nature volume 532, pages 7376 (07 April 2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

The signature of 60Fe in deep-sea crusts indicates that one or more supernovae exploded in the solar neighbourhood about 2.2 million years ago1,2,3,4. Recent isotopic analysis is consistent with a core-collapse or electron-capture supernova that occurred 60 to 130 parsecs from the Sun5. Moreover, peculiarities in the cosmic ray spectrum point to a nearby supernova about two million years ago6. The Local Bubble of hot, diffuse plasma, in which the Solar System is embedded, originated from 14 to 20 supernovae within a moving group, whose surviving members are now in the Scorpius–Centaurus stellar association7,8. Here we report calculations of the most probable trajectories and masses of the supernova progenitors, and hence their explosion times and sites. The 60Fe signal arises from two supernovae at distances between 90 and 100 parsecs. The closest occurred 2.3 million years ago at present-day galactic coordinates l = 327°, b = 11°, and the second-closest exploded about 1.5 million years ago at l = 343°, b = 25°, with masses of 9.2 and 8.8 times the solar mass, respectively. The remaining supernovae, which formed the Local Bubble, contribute to a smaller extent because they happened at larger distances and longer ago (60Fe has a half-life of 2.6 million years9,10). There are uncertainties relating to the nucleosynthesis yields and the loss of 60Fe during transport, but they do not influence the relative distribution of 60Fe in the crust layers, and therefore our model reproduces the measured relative abundances very well.

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Acknowledgements

D.B., M.A.de.A. and M.M.S. acknowledge funding by the DFG priority program 1573 “Physics of the Interstellar Medium”. We thank U. Bolick for help during the preparation of the manuscript and R. Teyssier for discussions on details of the RAMSES code.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Berlin Institute of Technology, Hardenbergstraße 36, 10623 Berlin, Germany

    • D. Breitschwerdt
    • , J. Feige
    • , M. M. Schulreich
    •  & M. A. de. Avillez
  2. Department of Mathematics, University of Évora, Rua Romão Ramalho 59, 7000 Évora, Portugal

    • M. A. de. Avillez
  3. Astronomisches Rechen-Institut, Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg, Mönchhofstraße 12–14, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

    • C. Dettbarn
    •  & B. Fuchs

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Contributions

D.B. worked out the model, and led the research and the paper writing. J.F. carried out analytic calculations, interpreted the crust data, calculated the IMF and produced Figs. 1 and 2 and the lower part of Fig. 4 and Extended Data Figs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. M.M.S. performed extensive numerical simulations on the background interstellar medium, the evolution of the Local Bubble and Loop I bubbles and the 60Fe transport and produced Fig. 3 and the upper part of Fig. 4. M.A.de.A. was involved in the interpretation of the data and the numerical simulations. C.D. carried out the analysis of the moving group stars, calculated the trajectories of both Local Bubble and Loop I progenitor stars and wrote a program to determine the probability distributions. B.F. worked analytically on the epicyclic equations and carried out the cumulative distribution function calculations for the most probable trajectories.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. Breitschwerdt.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature17424

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