In Its Youth, the Sun Was a Hot Mess

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We’re not saying that the Sun is not hot right now, but when it was a young star, it threw quite a lot of “tantrums.” Before our planet was formed, the sun would frequently erupt and spew huge amounts of high-energy particles.

But how can we prove it?

In their study published in the journal Nature Astronomy on 30 July, researchers found inside ancient meteorites microscopic blue crystals called hibonite.

This is one of the first minerals that helped form the solar system, and it’s so small that the largest one is the width of a human hair! At this microscopic mass, the mineral has a lot of information about the sun, like the chemical activity of the time before the planets formed.

One of the authors of the study, Philipp Heck, who is an associate curator of meteoritics and polar studies at The Field Museum (Chicago), explains that in their observations, they discovered that our sun was wilder than it is now:

“A young star is more active in that it has more frequent and violent eruptions that launch particles and radiation into its surroundings.”

The Quiet Phase of the Sun

The core temperature of the sun then starts to ignite fusion. At that moment, it stops from growing and the almost quiet phase begins, which is “the phase the sun is currently in,” added Heck.

In the collection of meteorites at the Field Museum, scientists analyzed samples from the Murchison meteorite which exploded in 1969 over Murchison, Australia.

Before other minerals were found in the solar system, hibonite was present. It then made sense that the scientists would look for evidence of the sun’s activity by analyzing these crystals.

Researchers blasted the crystals with laser, which caused them to release neon and helium. These two have been inside the crystals for billions of years, and their concentration showed that the sun was very active in its youth, irradiating the crystals billions of years ago.

The authors explain that the high-energy particles from the sun struck the hibonite crystals which in turn they split calcium and aluminum atoms, creating isotopes of neon and helium. Heck concludes that the isotope ratios are characteristic “fingerprints of irradiation with energetic particles from the early active sun.”

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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