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All Sand on Earth Could Be Made of Star Stuff

Silica, a common ingredient in sand, concrete and glass, may have its origins in supernovae

Astronomers have long argued that the phrase “we are stardust” is more than poetic language. Now new evidence adds another stanza to this great cosmic verse.

Dust from silica—a common component of Earth’s core, sandy beaches, concrete, glass and even cell phones—has been detected within the remnants of two supernovae in the Milky Way galaxy. These observations, described last October in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, provide the first evidence that silica originated within exploding stars.

“This is a rich result in that something so common on Earth has now been found to be created in the most violent explosions in the universe,” says study co-author Haley Gomez, an astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales. “It’s an origin story.”

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