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But the numbers simply don’t work out: if actinides were produced by supernovae, it would lead to a higher abundance of these elements than we actually observe.
On the other hand, the researchers are also able to estimate the number of neutron star mergers that could contribute material to the formation of the Solar System.
First, if supernovae are a major contributor to actinide formation, then there should be an average amount of actinide production per explosion.
Stars follow a predictable life, so the researchers can estimate how many stars went kaboom in time to contribute material to the formation of our Solar System.
We've only observed one neutron star merger at this point, though, which leaves things a bit uncertain.
The star starts turning helium into heavier elements at an increasingly feverish rate.
The end, no matter how hot and heavy the star, comes when the star’s core is made of iron.
These explosions can create many of the elements heavier than iron.
However, a supernova will still only get us as far along the periodic table as molybdenum, leaving about 40 elements unexplained.