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Glass component 'made from supernovae', Cardiff study finds

A boy drinking water out of a glass Image copyright yaoinlove
Image caption Glass is one of the most important materials to humans

We drink out of it, we look through it, we put flowers in it. We even wear it on our face - glass is one of the most important materials we use.

And thanks to research by a Cardiff scientist, we now know the main component of glass, silica, was formed inside the heart of exploding stars.

Co-authored by Prof Haley Gomez of Cardiff University, the study found silica remnants in distant dying stars.

It was published in the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Prof Gomez was part of an international team of scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to investigate two supernovae billions of light years from Earth.

A supernova occurs when a massive star runs out of fuel, causing it to collapse in on itself and end its life with an intense explosion.

Image caption Prof Haley Gomez of Cardiff University has helped discover that silica, a key component in glass, originates from exploding stars

The team was able to identify grains of silica in the supernovae based on the assumption that they were shaped more like rugby balls rather than the commonly held belief they are completely spherical.

"We've shown for the first time that the silica produced by the supernovae was significant enough to contribute to the dust throughout the universe, including the dust that ultimately came together to form our home planet," said Prof Gomez.

"Every time we gaze through a window, walk down the pavement or set foot on a sandy beach, we are interacting with material made by exploding stars that burned millions of years ago."

A large amount of silica dust has been observed throughout the universe previously, but up until now scientists have been unable to pinpoint exactly where it is formed.

In total, silica makes up around 60% of the earth's crust.

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