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Sun Is Made of Iron, Not Hydrogen
July 19, 2002 08:30 CDT

Scientists have long believed that the sun was composed of an enormous mass of hydrogen. Not everyone bought this theory, though, and for the last 40-years Dr. Manuel Oliver has been preaching his theory of the creation of our solar system instead.

Manuel's hypothesis on how the planets formed is very different. He believes that the solar system was born out of a catastrophic explosion - a very different interpretation of the data than that of his fellow scientists. The conventional belief among astrophysicists is that the sun and the planets were formed 4.5 billion years ago in a relatively ambiguous, innocuous cloud of interstellar dust.

Manuel has clung stubbornly to his belief that it simply didn't happen that way, and data recently collected is starting to imply that in the end, he may be right.

Iron and the heavy element known as xenon are the cornerstones of his different beliefs. They are integral to why he hypothesizes that the solar system had a very different beginning. Here's his version of what happened:

He believes a supernova rocked our area of the Milky Way galaxy some five billion years ago, giving birth to all the heavenly bodies that populate the solar system. Analyses of meteorites reveal that all primordial helium is accompanied by "strange xenon," he says, adding that both helium and strange xenon came from the outer layer of the supernova that created the solar system. Helium and strange xenon are also seen together in Jupiter.

Manuel admits that hydrogen fusion creates some of the sun's heat - as hydrogen (the lightest of all elements) moves up to the sun's surface. But the real heat, he says, comes from the core of an exploded supernova that continues to generate energy within the iron-rich interior of the sun, Manuel says.

"We think that the solar system came from a single star, and the sun formed on a collapsed supernova core," Manuel said. "The inner planets are made mostly of matter produced in the inner part of that star, and the outer planets of material form the outer layers of that star."

He hasn't been the only salmon swimming upstream all these years. Manuel first began to develop his theory in 1972. He and his colleagues had their theory published in the British journal Nature In 1975 he and another UMR researcher named Dr. Dwarka Das Sabu first proposed that the solar system formed from the debris of a spinning star that exploded as a supernova. They based their claim on studies of meteorites and moon samples, which showed traces of strange xenon.

NASA's Galileo probe would seem to support his hypothesis. The probe of Jupiter's helium-rich atmosphere in 1996 found traces of strange xenon gases - solid evidence against the conventional model of the solar system's creation, Manuel declared in a press release from University of Missouri-Rolla.

Manuel will have an opportunity to present his case in a poster presentation entitled, "Why the Model of a Hydrogen-filled Sun is Obsolete". Audience members will hear him out on Monday, July 21st at the Meteoritical Society's 65th annual meeting on the University of California-Los Angeles campus. Co-authors with Manuel are Cynthia Bolon, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at UMR, and Aditya Katragada, a UMR graduate student in chemistry.

Manuel believes a supernova rocked our area of the Milky Way galaxy some five billion years ago, giving birth to all the heavenly bodies that populate the solar system. Analyses of meteorites reveal that all primordial helium is accompanied by "strange xenon," he says, adding that both helium and strange xenon came from the outer layer of the supernova that created the solar system. Helium and strange xenon are also seen together in Jupiter.

The researchers reported that "strange xenon" is normal xenon that is enriched in isotopes (created when a supernova explodes). It could not be produced within meteorites.

Three years later, Manuel and Sabu found that all of the primordial helium in meteorites is trapped in the same sites that trapped strange xenon. Based on these findings, they concluded that the solar system formed directly from the debris of a single supernova, and the sun formed on the supernova's collapsed core. Giant planets like Jupiter grew from material in the outer part of the supernova, while Earth and the inner planets formed out of material from the supernova's interior.

This is why the outer planets consist mostly of hydrogen, helium and other light elements, and the inner planets are made of heavier elements like iron, sulfur and silicon, Manuel says.

Strange xenon came from the helium-rich outer layers of the supernova, while normal xenon came from its interior. There was no helium in the interior because nuclear fusion reactions there changed the helium into the heavier elements, Manuel says.

Manuel had another chance to climb up on his favorite soapbox and share his theory this past January at the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Washington, D.C. His paper, "The Origin of the Solar System with an Iron-rich Sun," and other information about Manuel's research are available on the Internet at http://web.umr.edu/~om/.

Source: Press Release (University of Missouri-Rolla)

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