Scientists at Michigan State University have found that exploding stars create carbon atoms much faster than they thought. This discovery could turn the existing theories of the creation of elements and contribute to the development of new science in astronomy and thermonuclear fusion.
One of the most abundant elements on Earth, carbon, is created in a triple helium fusion reaction in supernova explosions. The nucleus of a helium atom comprises two protons, and two neutrons fuses to make carbon with six protons, six neutrons, and six electrons.
However, such a synthesis reaction is rather ineffective if something does not help it. Using simulations, the scientists found that an excess of protons in the inner layers could speed up fusion reactions with a triple helium fusion reaction, generating 10 times more carbon atoms than expected.
This discovery could explain the extra carbon in the universe, but it poses another mystery. Scientists previously believed that these excess protons were responsible for creating some of the heavier isotopes of ruthenium and molybdenum found on Earth.
It looks like these isotopes could be produced in other ways, but researchers aren’t sure how exactly.