For years now, a lot of scientists still wonder where gold comes from. Many thought that these are naturally made from the elements we have; others thought that it’s man-made. Although Science had little to no explanation on where and how it’s made, an event actually took its chance and proved it.
Scientists have been observing the movements of two stars. These stars slammed into each other in space; this sent huge amounts of waves and components throughout our habitat. If we try and calculate it, it sent out signals from 130 million light years away. In the process, it spat out precious metals and elements like uranium and platinum – including gold.
Experts say that this phenomenon skyrocketed a new chapter in astrophysics. In addition to that, it was also successful in confirming theories about origins of stars. So how did experts observe this? Not only by hearing it from the sound caused by vibrations, but also by seeing it. They were able to use telescopes on satellites to see the light and radiation sprung out by the explosion; they refer to it as kilonova.
So what were these objects?
To state the obvious, they were stars, neutron stars to be exact. These neutron stars are burned out remnants of gigantic stars. They’re so big and dense that a teaspoon of their existence would weigh a billion tons on Earth. Yes, saying that they’re big is an understatement.
What happened to these stars?
From the signals picked up from sensitive detectors in Washington and Louisiana in the US, operated by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), the explosion looked like ripples from a stone thrown in the pond. These gigantic materials which are approximately 12 miles in diameter collided and distorted space time, causing multiple occurrences in the space time continuum.
In these offices were the first discovery of gravitational waves. This was in September 2015. Furthermore, this discovery confirms Einstein’s prediction 100 years ago.
A couple of seconds after the Ligo detection, Nasa’s Fermi space telescope was able to capture a burst of gamma rays from the star crash.
Alarmed and curious, astronomers did not hesitate to view this phenomenon. They quickly looked up in a small patch in the southern sky; they saw the event and flash across the heavens.
“The exquisite observations obtained in a few days showed we were observing a kilonova, an object whose light is powered by extreme nuclear reactions,” said Dr Joe Lyman from the University of Warwick. Dr. Joe is one of the many scientists and astronomers involved. “This tells us that the heavy elements, like the gold or platinum in jewellery, are the cinders forged in the billion degree remnants of a merging neutron star,” he added.
30 million light years away was where this collision occurred, in a relatively old galaxy called NGC 4993. When the gravitational waves began their journey across space, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Yes, if you were that far from Earth and you try to look at Earth from some kind of telescope, you would be able to see dinosaurs walking in the Earth.
The gravitational wave signal, named GW170817, was detected at 1:41 P.M. UK time on August 17.
What does this tell us?
This event does not only narrate the story what happens when neutron stars collide, it also gives us the idea where gold and other heavy elements come from. Although scientists and researchers cannot be too sure that this is where these elements come from, they have a relevant clue that this creates an important phase in the production of gold and other heavy elements.
“This discovery has answered three questions that astronomers have been puzzling for decades: what happens when neutron stars merge? What causes the short duration gamma-ray bursts? Where are the heavy elements, like gold, made?” said Dr. Samantha Oates from the University of Warwick. “In the space of about a week all three of these mysteries were solved,” she added.
Wow! These events does not only make the universe a tremendous living environment, it also gives our scientists and experts ideas about our natural resources, elements, metal, and also different galaxies’ relation to ours and our planet.
Although this occurrence is insufficient to really prove that gold is made in outer space, studies and researches will continue to further dig down this topic. Now, we have skeletal structures of ideas that tell us stories we never imagined.
Science is really amazing and it really never seizes to amaze us. We do hope that in the following years, this curiosity will be put to a close. Yes, this truly is a new chapter in our science and in astrophysics.