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We believe that our own solar system was a cloud, sitting there in space, more or less minding its own business, when a supernova shockwave struck the cloud and had it collapse down and form a new star system. The earliest clues are bone sewing needles dating as far back as 40,000 years ago, but we know early humans were world travelers long before that.
We still don't know for sure what the trigger was, but since we've discovered meteorites with supernova dust, we do know that a violent explosion rocked our cosmic neighborhood at the time of our birth, and it's quite possible that without it, our stable, stately solar system would never exist at all. Our solar system had hundreds of Moon-sized planets... Attempts to find the recipe for early life were unsuccessful, too, even though researchers knew the basic ingredients. Their fossil remains have been found across the globe.
I've come to the deserts of Arizona to try to track down some rare space rocks. Perfect place for hunting for meteorites: southern Arizona. So, can these space rocks tell us what triggered the event? It's made from three parts: a sugar, a phosphate and a single letter of the genetic code, a base. Knowing what chemicals it would take, the question was how to cook them together.
That number, 60, tells you how many protons and neutrons are in an atom's nucleus, so when this rock formed, four-and-a-half billion years ago, it was originally infused with iron 60. They're used to help build the proteins that make up the cells in our bodies: skin, hair, brain cells, the heart. They've given us a glimpse of where we come from...
And iron 60 is created in only one place: a supernova. John Sutherland's recipe for life required sunlight. Cook at 212-320°F Where in the world do you find a kitchen like that?
Once you've got the makings of a star, gravity draws leftover gas and dust into a giant swirling disk. Well, not everybody is buying the "supernova-as-a-creator" theory. has long been hailed as the fundamental molecule of life. Most of what we know about human evolution comes from these: the fossilized bones of our ancestors.
The dust continues to stick together, clumping into rocky asteroids, which eventually become orbiting rocky planets. For Steve Desch, a supernova hitting a gas cloud is more likely to do this. With their help, we've traced our evolution from small furry creatures to the big-brained beings we've become today. One mystery that's stumped the fossil hunters is when we started wearing clothes.
Luckily, there are some rocks left over from our earliest days, asteroids formed during our solar system's birth. It's an old lakebed, and so the sand has been blown away, like right now, and it's exposing the rocks that are on the ground. Some of the rarest are pieces of the moon, blasted here after impacts there.