The curious collection of a slightly mad scientist
King Midas in Brides and grooms have stars not only in their eyes, but also in their wedding bands, scientists have found.
Researchers at Harvard University say they have observed an unusual astronomical event that sends gold flying into space. A similar event could have been responsible for the glittering metal’s presence on Earth.
Most of the lighter elements found were created within stars, as a byproduct of nuclear fusion. When those stars exploded at the end of their lifecycle, they shot elements like calcium, iron, and carbon into the universe. Those star-created elements and others would join with hydrogen and helium originating from the Big Bang to become the building blocks of our world, and of our bodies: the calcium from star explosions is in our bones; the iron is in our blood; and the carbon is in our DNA.
But simple star death does not explain how the elements heavier than iron, including gold, arrived here. Those elements cannot be made in the typical star’s artisan laboratory. Among the leading candidates for the birth of those metals is a supernova, the cataclysmic explosion of a white dwarf star, believed to happen just three times every century in our entire galaxy.
Now, a team of Harvard astronomers has for the first time offered data supporting an alternative idea: gold is instead created in an even rarer event, the merger of two unusual stars, called neutron stars. …