A recent study has shown that a large amount of the matter in our Solar System comes from outside of our planetary neighborhood.

Scientists learned more about dark matter last year, as well as matter in our own world.

You probably remember the basics from your grade school science class when it comes to atoms and subatomic particles. But you might be surprised to know that half of the atoms in your body right now actually came from somewhere across the universe.

How did the scientists conducting this research come to their findings?

image of a statue of atoms for article Science Reveals Most Matter in our Universe is Extra-Solar
Our knowledge of atoms keeps changing | dimitrisvetsikas1969 | Pixabay

There are Intergalactic Space Winds?

This is a bit of an oversimplification; however, it relates to how so many of our galaxy’s own atoms came from other systems in space.

The swap occurs due to supernovas in space that spew high-speed gas into the universe.

Thanks to large forces like this, our Milky Way galaxy collected about half its matter from nearby star clusters. Nearby is relative in space and, in this case, it means up to at least one million lightyears away.

The simulation that determined this came from Northwestern University in Illinois. One of the postdoctoral fellows in their astrophysics center, Daniel Anglés-Alcázar likened the situation to how people move about the world:

“Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants.”

Galactic winds are what propel matter and they move at several hundred kilometers per second. Despite their speed, the process that scientists theorize resulted in the current Milky Way’s atomic makeup probably took more than several billion years.


image of CIERA astrophysics school members for article Science Reveals Most Matter in our Universe is Extra-Solar
Members of CIERA astrophysics school| CIERA

Simulations With 3D Models Yield Results

Claude-André Faucher-Giguère led the research group in tandem with Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) collaborators. They created numerical simulations that actualized realistic galaxy models in 3D spaces.

They then developed algorithms with which to mine data in order to quantify just how galaxies get their matter from the universe. Faucher-Giguère elaborated on the process:

“What this new model implies is that up to one-half of the atoms around us — including in the solar system, on Earth and in each one of us — comes not from our own galaxy but from other galaxies, up to one million light years away.”

You can read more about the project and its specifics in their paper located here.

What is the most intriguing or baffling thing you’ve learned about astrophysics this week?

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