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The remnant of a supernova. Photo: NASA/CXC/F. Vogt et al./ESO/VLT/MUSE/STScI

Radioactive dust sent out by ancient supernovas has been found in Antarctica, according to a new study in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The big picture: Researchers behind the study suggest that our solar system is currently flying through a cloud of cosmic material thought to be shaped by supernovas.

  • Those stellar explosions may leave behind traces of the radioactive isotope iron-60, which the scientists found in Antarctic snow.
  • This study and future work could help explain more about our solar system’s past and its movements through the Milky Way, according to a synopsis published by the American Physical Society.

What they found: The team behind the study thinks that the iron-60 atoms found in the region were delivered to Earth in the last 20 years.

  • "I think Earth essentially picked [the element] up during the movement through the cloud, not like a real injection as you would expect from a very near supernova," Dominik Koll, an author of the study, tells Axios by email.
  • The scientists had been concerned that the isotope might have been created by nuclear weapons, but the team ruled that out when the other concentrations of bomb-created isotopes didn't match what they found in Antarctica.

What's next: Koll and his colleagues are hoping to get a look at older Antarctic snow in order to compare concentrations of iron-60 in the past to those found today.

  • Older samples may reveal exactly when our solar system traveled into the supernova-enriched cloud it appears to find itself within now.

Go deeper

Biden expresses support for Amazon workers' union vote in Alabama

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a union vote by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama in a two-minute video posted on Twitter Sunday, though he did not name the tech giant specifically.

Why it matters: A vote by workers at the Bessemer, Ala., warehouse to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union would make the facility the first Amazon warehouse to unionize in the U.S., per NPR. The election will run through March 29.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Miami mayor: Bitcoin's appeal is that governments can't manipulate it

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is pushing to make bitcoin a part of his city's economic future, and in an interview with "Axios on HBO," he pushed back against the economic orthodoxy of people like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen who say it's a bad idea.

Why it matters: Miami's inclusion of bitcoin as a way to pay city employees or as part of the city's emergency cash holdings, as Suarez has proposed, would add legitimacy to the cryptocurrency and further entrench it in the U.S. economic system.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Miami mayor acknowledges Big Tech plans could hurt the city's poor

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez's ambitions to attract Big Tech has generated a lot of headlines — but it will likely come with some negative impacts for current residents, for which the mayor admits there may not be solutions.

What he's saying: "Gentrification is real," Suarez told "Axios on HBO." But even with his efforts to promote affordable housing, he argues that "government has a limited amount of resources and a limited amount of ability to stop things that are market driven."