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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

15 mins ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.

Congress passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 69-28 to pass legislation Thursday night to fund the government until February 18.

Why it matters: The move staves off a government shutdown but lawmakers still have a busy month ahead: Congress needs to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling in a few weeks and Democrats are trying to pass their behemoth social spending bill.