All the gold on Earth likely originated from violent collisions between neutron stars, billions of years in the past.
Recent research by scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts has revealed that considerable amounts of gold — along with other heavy elements — are produced during impacts between neutron stars, the super-dense remains of stars originally 1.4 to 9 times the mass of our Sun.
The team’s investigation of a short-duration gamma-ray outburst that occurred in June (GRB 130603B) showed a surprising residual near-infrared glow, possibly from a cloud of material created during the stellar merger. This cloud is thought to contain a considerable amount of freshly-minted heavy elements, including gold.
“We estimate that the amount of gold produced and ejected during the merger of the two neutron stars may be as large as 10 moon masses – quite a lot of bling!” .
The mass of the Moon is 7.347 x 1022 kg… about 1.2% the mass of Earth. The collision between these neutron stars then, 3.9 billion light-years away, produced 10 times that much gold based on the team’s estimates.
by Jason Major (Universe today)
Image credit: Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital, Inc.