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These rocks have floated around the Solar System doing basically nothing, at least until some of them had the luck to land on Earth.

First, if supernovae are a major contributor to actinide formation, then there should be an average amount of actinide production per explosion.

Stars follow a predictable life, so the researchers can estimate how many stars went kaboom in time to contribute material to the formation of our Solar System.

Once this was understood, scientists were left wondering where the remaining 80 odd elements that are heavier than iron came from.

Heavier stars end their life in a supernova—a violent explosion.

Here the numbers seem to work out: the number of mergers that could have contributed to our early Solar System (a number based on how often these things seem to occur) produces an actinide abundance that brackets the one estimated from asteroids. It seems that nearly half the plutonium in the Solar System came from a single neutron star merger.

That is fascinating: with such low numbers of neutron star mergers contributing to actinide abundance, the variation from solar system to solar system must be huge.Imagine, we could have ended up in a solar system with almost no uranium or plutonium.Now, a note of caution: in this research, the scientists compared standard supernova with neutron star mergers.These explosions can create many of the elements heavier than iron.However, a supernova will still only get us as far along the periodic table as molybdenum, leaving about 40 elements unexplained.Then, a neutron star merger was observed, first via gravitational waves and later with various other hardware.

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