Let There Be Aluminum-42

The experiment ran for seven days, and magnesium-40, like Adam, didn’t show up until the fifth day. It was a long-sought isotope thought to be the heaviest magnesium that can exist, having 16 more neutrons than the most common form of magnesium. Three nuclei of magnesium-40 were recorded, and it was very good. But then, something even more interesting happened (think Eve). The researchers also saw 23 nuclei of aluminum-42. Experts generally thought it couldn’t exist.

Now, astrophysicists may have to rethink their models of how supernovae create heavier elements. On the other hand, they may also be able to explain anomalous X-ray flashes coming from neutron stars. When matter falls onto a neutron star and starts sinking into its crust, pressures 10 trillion times as high as those at the sun’s center force electrons and protons to merge, forming neutrons. Aluminum-42 and magnesium-40 may be among the elements that form temporarily during that process.

Read my article from this week’s Science News

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