Gold seen in neutron star collision debris | Science News


Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Gold seen in neutron star collision debris

Material ejected in gamma-ray bursts may be source of heavy elements

3:20pm, July 22, 2013

GOLD EXPLOSION  New observations suggest that  colliding neutron stars (shown in this artist's conception) produce short  gamma-ray bursts. Such collisions also eject material that may be the source of  the universe's gold and other heavy elements.

View the video

Dead stars make good alchemists.

Images snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that gold may have been generated by a violent neutron star collision that also yielded lead, platinum, uranium and other heavy elements.

The stellar smashup was detected on June 3, when NASA’s Swift satellite observed a gamma-ray burst 3.9 billion light-years away. Astrophysicists believe that a crash between two neutron stars, the dense, neutron-rich cores left over after massive stars explode, released the 0.2-second flash of energy.

Images snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope nine days later saw evidence for a bounty of heavy elements amounting to about 1 percent of the sun’s mass and including several moon masses of gold, says Edo Berger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. Given the amount of gold and the fact that these collisions probably happen once every 10,000

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content