This week, at the 223rd American Astronomy Meeting in Washington, D.C. astronomers announced that they had found the missing dust, or at least an important example of where it comes from.
PHOTOS: ALMA: New Jewel of the Atacama Desert
Supernova 1987A blasted its way into existence just 27 years ago in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, allowing astronomers a chance to watch a supernova evolve right in front of their eyes (or telescopes). In the image above, a characteristic ring of material shows where the shock wave of the exploded supernova is in space, so that the remnants of the massive star that exploded can be found within that ring.
The team, led by Remy Indebetouw of the University of Virginia, pointed ALMA at supernova 1987A looking for warm dust, and they found it. A lot of it. The dust cloud seen has a full quarter of the mass of our sun! This is ample dust, produced by the star that went supernova, to explain where dust came from in the early universe, allowing the generations of star formation that eventually led to planets and people.