The birth environment of the solar system constrained by the relative abundances of the solar radionuclides

Edward D. Young, Bruce G. Elmegreen, L. Viktor Tóth, Manuel Güdel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The relative abundances of the radionuclides in the solar system at the time of its birth are crucial arbiters for competing hypotheses regarding the birth environment of the Sun. The presence of short-lived radionuclides, as evidenced by their decay products in meteorites, has been used to suggest that particular, sometimes exotic, stellar sources were proximal to the Sun's birth environment. The recent confirmation of neutron star-neutron star (NS-NS) mergers and associated kilonovae as potentially dominant sources of r-process nuclides can be tested in the case of the solar birth environment using the relative abundances of the longer-lived nuclides. Critical analysis of the 15 radionuclides and their stable partners for which abundances and production ratios are well known suggests that the Sun formed in a typical massive star-forming region (SFR). The apparent overabundances of short-lived radionuclides (e.g. 26Al, 41Ca, 36Cl) in the early solar system appears to be an artifact of a heretofore under-appreciation for the important influences of enrichment by Wolf-Rayet winds in SFRs. The long-lived nuclides (e.g. 238U, 244Pu, 247Cr, 129I) are consistent with an average time interval between production events of 108 years, seemingly too short to be the products of NS-NS mergers alone. The relative abundances of all of these nuclides can be explained by their mean decay lifetimes and an average residence time in the ISM of ∼ 200 Myr. This residence time evidenced by the radionuclides is consistent with the average lifetime of dust in the ISM and the timescale for converting molecular cloud mass to stars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-77
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the International Astronomical Union
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • ISM
  • solar system: Formation
  • stars: Wolf-Rayet
  • Sun: Abundances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Space and Planetary Science

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