Injection of supernova dust in nearby protoplanetary disks

N. Ouellette, Steven Desch, J. J. Hester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The early solar system contained a number of short-lived radionuclides (SLRs) such as 26Al with half-lives <15 Myr. The one-time presence of 60Fe strongly suggests that the source of these radionuclides was a nearby supernova. In this paper, we investigate the "aerogel" model, which hypothesizes that the solar system's SLRs were injected directly into the solar system's protoplanetary disk from a supernova within the same star-forming region. Previous work has shown that disks generally survive the impact of supernova ejecta, but also that little gaseous ejecta can be injected into the disk. The aerogel model hypothesizes that radionuclides in the ejecta condensed into micron-sized dust grains that were injected directly into the solar nebula disk. Here, we discuss the density structure of supernova ejecta and the observational support for dust condensation in the ejecta. We argue that supernova ejecta are clumpy and describe a model to quantify this clumpiness. We also argue that infrared observations may be underestimating the fraction of material that condenses into dust. Building on calculations of how supernova ejecta interact with protoplanetary disks, we calculate the efficiency with which dust grains in the ejecta are injected into a disk. We find that about 70% of material in grains roughly 0.4 μm in diameter can be injected into disks. If ejecta are clumpy, the solar nebula was struck by a clump with higher-than-average 26Al and 60Fe, and these elements condensed efficiently into large grains, then the abundances of SLRs in the early solar system can be explained, even if the disk lies 2 pc from the supernova explosion. The probability that all these factors are met is low, perhaps ∼10-3-10-2, and receiving as much 26Al and 60Fe as the solar system did may be a rare event. Still, the aerogel model remains a viable explanation for the origins of the radionuclides in the early solar system, and may be the most plausible one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-612
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010


  • Meteorites, meteors, meteoroids
  • Protoplanetary disks
  • Shock waves
  • Stars: formation
  • Supernovae: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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