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No. 39: May-Jun 1985

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The message of aluminum-26

"Our solar system may be inside the cloud of debris from a star that exploded 10,000 to 1,000,000 years ago. This startling conclusion was reached by Donald Clayton of Rice University after studying observations of the amount of aluminum-26 (26Al) in the interstellar medium."

Instruments on satellites (gamma-ray spectrometers) have detected so much aluminum-26 that radical hypotheses seem required. The problem is that aluminum26 is radioactive with a half-life of only about 1 million years -- a very short time astronomically speaking. The aluminum-26 cannot be primordial solar-system stuff; it cannot even be 10 million years old. It had to be created somewhere nearby recently. The best aluminum-26 factory conceived so far is a nova in our vicinity.

(Anonymous; "Are We inside a Supernova Remnant?" Sky and Telescope, 69:13, 1985.)

Comment. A nova close enough to engulf the earth with its debris must have had a profound effect on the earth and its cargo of life -- perhaps on Saturn's rings, too. See next item.

From Science Frontiers #39, MAY-JUN 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987