Nuclear Fossils in Stardust

Science  30 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5658, pp. 636-637
DOI: 10.1126/science.1091478

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In the 1950s, observation of the radioactive element technetium in stars led to the modern theory of nucleosynthesis that explains how elements are created. In his Perspective, Nittler discusses results reported Savina et al. in which highly sensitive mass spectroscopy was used to measure the isotopic abundance of ruthenium, a technetium decay product, in silicon carbide dust grains from meteorites. Such grains are believed to have been created in the envelopes of particular giant stars. Savina et al. find that the measured isotopic ratios agree very well with models of these stars if radioactive technetium is assumed to have been a component of the dust grains during their formation. As a result of these measurements, modern stellar models can be quantitatively tested with high accuracy and precision.