Researchers have just confirmed the presence of an ‘unnatural’ mysterious element during the formation of our solar system. It is one of the heaviest known elements and does not occur naturally. Interestingly, on our planet curium can only exist when created in laboratories or as a byproduct of nuclear explosions.
Curium was named after Marie Curie and Peter Curie whose work lay the foundations of the theory of radioactivity.Researchers identified Curium present in a meteorite nicknamed ‘Curious Marie’ by researchers offers new insight into how stars form. The presence of Curium suggests that nearly all ‘heavy radioactive isotopes’ could have formed at the same time.
The research was published in the Journal Science Advances.
According to scientists from the University of Chicago, a rare element known as ‘curium’ which was found in a meteorite during the formation of our solar system, around 4.6billion years ago. Researchers believe that the element does not occur naturally on earth and it was first produced and identified in 1944 by a group of scientists at Berkley, California.
The lead author of the study, François Tissot said that „Curium is an elusive element“.
“It is one of the heaviest-known elements, yet it does not occur naturally because all of its isotopes are radioactive and decay rapidly on a geological time scale.“
Researchers can use it in order to determine an accurate reading on when our planet was created. According to co-author Nicolas Dauphas: “The possible presence of curium in the early solar system has long been exciting to cosmochemists because they can often use radioactive elements as chronometers to date the relative ages of meteorites and planets.”
Researchers speculate that the enigmatic element could have come into existence as a result of star formations, or massive star explosions that happened before the solar system was born.
Professor Dauphas continued: “This is particularly important because it indicates that as successive generations of stars die and eject the elements they produced into the galaxy, the heaviest elements are produced together while previous work had suggested that this was not the case.”
According to a report from the University of Chicago, „models predict that curium, if present, was in low abundance in the early solar system. Therefore, the excess U-235 produced by the decay of Cm-247 cannot be seen in minerals or inclusions that contain large or even average amounts of natural uranium. One of the challenges was thus to find a mineral or inclusion likely to have incorporated a lot of curium but containing little uranium.“