Scientists at the University of Gothenburg believe a new laser technique may help to prove that a supernova once exploded near to our solar system.
The discovery of a single atom of an isotope of hafnium, known as 182Hf, would prove the theory but it is difficult to distinguish from the many billions of other hafnium.
Researcher Pontus Andersson from the Department of Physics at the university has developed a laser technique which detaches the extra electron from certain negative ions, helping to weed out irrelevant atoms when searching for the cosmic culprit.
"Our goal is to develop a method that can be of aid when searching for very unusual isotopes," he commented.
"In many cases the standard methods used are hampered by other, interfering atoms."
Scientists at the University of Gothenburg recently showed that the mysterious flux of electrons and positrons in the universe, previously thought to emanate from dark matter, actually arise from exploding stars.