Article: "Sun is Mostly Iron, Not Hydrogen"

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Tue Jan 08 2002 - 12:24:34 MST

Whoa! Nothing like a little bit of iron to turn over the
foundations of astrophysics !


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January 8, 2002


ROLLA, Mo. -- For years, scientists have assumed that the sun is an
enormous mass of hydrogen. But in a paper to be presented Thursday, Jan.
10, at the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Washington, D.C.,
Dr. Oliver Manuel says iron, not hydrogen, is the sun's most abundant

Manuel, a professor of nuclear chemistry at the University of Missouri-
Rolla, claims that hydrogen fusion creates some of the sun's heat, as
hydrogen -- the lightest of all elements -- moves to the sun's surface.
But most of the heat 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 says. "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."

Manuel will present his the evidence for his assertion in his paper,
"The Origin of the Solar System with an Iron-rich Sun," at 10 a.m.
Thursday, Jan. 10, at the AAS' 199th annual meeting at the Hilton
Washington and Towers in Washington, D.C. In addition, Cynthia Bolon,
a UMR graduate student in chemistry who has studied with Manuel, will
present related research in her paper, "Repulsion and Attraction
between Nucleons: Sources of Energy for an Iron-rich Sun and for First
Generation Stars," following Manuel's presentation.

Manuel says the solar system was born catastrophically out of a
supernova -- a theory that goes against the widely-held belief among
astrophysicists that the sun and planets were formed 4.5 billion years
ago in a relatively ambiguous cloud of interstellar dust.

Iron and the heavy element known as xenon are at the center of Manuel's
efforts to change the way people think about the solar system's origins.

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.

Manuel has spent the better part of his 40-year scientific career
trying to convince others of his hypothesis. Back in 1975, Manuel and
another UMR researcher, 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.

Data from NASA's Galileo probe of Jupiter's helium-rich atmosphere in
1996 reveals traces of strange xenon gases -- solid evidence against
the conventional model of the solar system's creation, Manuel says.

Manuel first began to develop the iron-rich sun theory in 1972. That
year, Manual and his colleagues reported in the British journal Nature
that the xenon found in primitive meteorites was a mixture of strange
and normal xenon (Nature 240, 99-101).

The strange xenon is enriched in isotopes that are made when a
supernova explodes, the researchers reported, and 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 form the supernova's

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.

More information is available on the Web at

Information about the American Astronomical Society is available on the
Web at

Amara Graps, PhD | Max-Planck-Institut fuer Kernphysik
Heidelberg Cosmic Dust Group | Saupfercheckweg 1
+49-6221-516-543 | 69117 Heidelberg, GERMANY *
"We came whirling out of Nothingness scattering stars like dust." --Rumi

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