New research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has shown that gold, as well as other heavier elements, were likely formed when neutron stars collided. These types of stars are super-dense remains of dead stars that were originally 1.4 to nine times the mass of Earth’s sun.
“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!” said Edo Berger, lead author of the study.
The team reached this estimate when it observed short-duration gamma-ray outburst. It showed a large amount of near-infrared glow which could have been from a cloud of material formed during a merger of two stars. The researchers believe the cloud contains newly-created heavy elements.
Though the gamma-ray outburst lasted a mere two-tenths of a second, the team noticed that the afterglow didn’t behave like an afterglow usually does. The glow resembled one formed when radioactive materials collide, which gave the researchers their clue.
Gold is a naturally-occurring element in the human body, comprising 0.000014 percent of the body’s chemical makeup. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we all have a piece of the universe in us.
The report was presented at a conference in Cambridge, Mass., and will be published in a future issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.