Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/17/2013 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Astronomers now have evidence that gold forms when neutron stars collide.

The gold we adore, hoard, and wear may be more exotic than most of us think, having formed in a process much more rare than previously imagined by ordinary folk.

Gold is likely formed in the collision between neutron stars.

Gold is likely formed in the collision between neutron stars.

Article Highlights

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/17/2013 (9 months ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: stars, gamma ray bursts, neutron, gold, formation


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - We value and enjoy the beauty of gold, one of the Earth's rarest and most precious metals. It has been used throughout all of recorded history as money, for jewelry and adornment, and even serves utilitarian purposes, mostly in electronics.

However, we rarely give thought to where gold comes from, other than that miners extract it from the Earth. Nevertheless, where does it form?

The Aztecs may have had the best answer, referring to gold as the excreta of the Sun.

Scientists have long known that gold comes from the deaths of stars, as does every element heavier than hydrogen. Stars are basically massive balls of hydrogen gas, billions of times more massive than the Earth. Hydrogen is the most basic element in the universe and the most abundant.

In the cores of stars, hydrogen atoms are fused by heat and pressure into heavier and heavier elements. Each fusion releases energy, like an H-bomb, that causes the stars to emit radiation all across the spectrum, including all of the heat and light which is familiar to us.

As stars exhaust the hydrogen in their cores and fuse heavier and heavier elements together, they become unstable and eventually explode. In this cataclysm, heavy metals are formed, from silicon to nickel.

However, this does not account very well for some of the heavier metals such as gold.

Scientists have long suspected that elements, such as gold, come from more exotic fusions. Now, they may have their answer.

A Harvard team led by astronomer Edo Berger, now suspects that gold is created in the fusion of two neutron stars. A neutron star is actually the super-dense core of a star that has burned all of its hydrogen fuel and collapsed in on itself forming a planet-sized relic where a star once burned. Any star with about 1.4 to 3.2 times the mass of our sun will become a neutron star.

Once dead, these stellar cores float through galaxies, carried by gravity until they interact with other objects. Occasionally, the cores of two neutron stars will pass close enough that they catch one another in their mutual gravity and spiral closer together in a final cosmic dance. Many star systems are binary systems, made of two stars, not just one. If both stars have the right amount of mass, they both may become neutron stars after they die.

Eventually, the two stars will collide in a cataclysmic cosmic crash that fuses extremely heavy elements, such as gold, together. These elements are strewn into space in the subsequent explosion. The two neutron stars may form a black hole, while the elements cast off from the collision may spread widely across the region of space where the collision occurred. The explosion also results in the emission of very high-frequency energy, known as a gamma ray burst. Gamma ray bursts can be observed occurring throughout our universe, even to its very edge.

Berger now believes his team has evidence of this actually happening. The team detected a gamma ray burst using the Swift X-ray telescope in June. The collision, GRB 130603B, occurred 3.9 billion light years away. Follow-up observations suggested the collision resulted in the broadcasting of heavy elements for as much as a week following. Berger called this the "golden glow."

They estimate that about 1 percent of the mass involved in these collisions is transformed into heavy elements. That's usually enough to create a small moon or planet's worth of gold in one moment.

Of course, those elements are strewn into space and coalesce with other material as new planets form.

Although the observation provides a clue as to how heavy elements such as gold are formed, it isn't conclusive. Berger makes clear that their observation is only one data point. Much more follow-up study is required to confirm the findings.

Still, it's remarkable to think that your wedding band may have a more exotic origin than you have ever imagined. When you wear gold, you wear a piece of the universe, 13.77 billion years old, and billions of years in the making, forged in the core of a cosmic cataclysm.

And for some of us reading, marriage suddenly makes a lot more sense.

---


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.



Comments


More Technology

EYES TO THE HEAVENS: Astronomers say there may be a 'new Saturn moon' Watch

Image of The disturbance in the edge of the ring is 20 percent brighter than its surroundings and about 750 miles long and six miles wide.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

All eyes are on the heavens as astronomers theorize that another moon for the ringed planet of Saturn may be on its way. If the heavenly body in the rings of Saturn is confirmed, it would make for the planet's 63rd moon. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


IS THE SECOND COMING NIGH? Four blood moons this year all occur on Jewish holidays Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As climate change wreaks havoc worldwide, and relations between the U.S. and Russia reach a low point over Ukraine, some Christians say that the phenomenon of the "Blood moon" may mean that Christ's return is rapidly approaching. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Will Alibaba devour Facebook? China's massive Alibaba is coming to conquer the United States Watch

Image of Yahoo's dominance has since dwindled as Alibaba has since grown into a global powerhouse.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ali Baba for those in the west usually means the storybook leader of a gang of fearless, 40 thieves. But this will soon change. A massive e-commerce site from China, Alibaba, with revenue larger than Amazon and eBay combined has decided to go public in the ... continue reading


Drone images reveal more about mysterious buried village in New Mexico Watch

Image of Drone images have captured fascinating new details about a buried Native American village in New Mexico.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Drone images have captured fascinating new details about a buried Native American village in New Mexico. Thermal images captured by the small drone allowed archaeologists to peer under the surface of the desert floor, revealing never-before-seen structures. LOS ... continue reading


New 'Star Wars' gun fires shells seven times the speed of sound through concrete -- 100 miles away Watch

Image of The rail gun will be mounted on high-speed vessel the USNS Millinocket for sea trials in 2016.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A futuristic lethal new weapon capable of firing a shell at seven times the speed of sound has since been successfully tested on land. Conjuring up images of iconic sci-fi villains as Darth Vader, researchers have called the new rail gun as being of 'Star Wars' ... continue reading


KETTLE CALLING THE POT BLACK? Internet search engines exhibiting double standards Watch

Image of An old cliche -- that bears repeating --

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Certain cliché sayings come to mind: The kettle calling the pot black, having one's cake and eating it too . Google, along with Facebook and Yahoo have come down hard on the Obama administration for information gathering - but NOW don't want their ... continue reading


Scientists discover massive asteroid hit Earth so hard that oceans evaporated Watch

Image of Earth was struck several times by massive asteroids billions of years ago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Scientists from Stanford University say they have found evidence of another cataclysmic cosmic collision between Earth and another asteroid billions of years ago. This asteroid, they say, was so large it punched a hole in the Earth's crust and caused earthquakes around ... continue reading


Why is NASA rejecting definitive proof of life on Mars? Watch

Image of Curiosity recently captures this image that shows light on the ground on Mars. NASA thinks it's just a glint off rock or some other similar anomaly.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Curiosity rover has photographed what appears to be light emanating from the ground on Mars. UFO and alien life enthusiasts as well as conspiracy theorists have all claimed the light is evidence of life on the Red Planet. NASA however, is not so sure. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


HANG ON TOTO! Astronomers calculate the speed of the Universe's expansion Watch

Image of Hang on! The universe is expanding at 1 percent per 44 million years, which is fast if you consider the size of the universe is at least 46 billion years in radius!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hold on to your hat, Toto, we're about to leave Kansas. Astronomers say they have calculated the expansion rate of the universe and their discovery is very surprising. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Astronomers have long been interested in measuring the expansion ... continue reading


Universe, you really let me down: astronomers disappointed after observation doesn't fit model Watch

Image of Galaxy clusters such as these should be more common throughout the universe than they are.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two professors say they are disappointed with the universe after learning that it is "smoother" and "flatter" than they expected. The compared the discovery to a trip to Switzerland that was switched for a trip to the Netherlands. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


All Technology News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 52:13--53:12
13 Look, my servant will prosper, will grow great, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
2 turn your ear to me, make haste. Be for me a ... Read More

Gospel, John 18:1--19:42
1 After he had said all this, Jesus left with his ... Read More

Reading 2, Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
14 Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 18th, 2014 Image

St. Apollonius the Apologist
April 18: Martyr whose Apologia, or defense of the faith, is considered ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter