Look to the cosmos for origins of gold
LOS ANGELES — A strange glow in space has provided fresh evidence that all the gold on Earth was forged from ancient collisions of dead stars, researchers reported Wednesday.
Astronomers have long known that fusion reactions in the cores of stars create lighter elements such as carbon and oxygen, but such reactions can’t produce heavier elements such as gold.
Instead, it was long thought that gold was created in a type of stellar explosion known as a supernova. But that doesn’t fully explain the amount of the precious metal in the solar system.
About a decade ago, a team from Europe using supercomputers suggested that gold, platinum and other heavy metals could be formed when two exotic neutron stars crash and merge. Neutron stars are collapsed cores of massive stars.
Now telescopes have detected such an explosion, and the observation bolsters the notion that gold in our jewelry was made in such rare and violent collisions long before the birth of the solar system about 4½ billion years ago.
The new work suggests gold was produced in a similar fashion in the Milky Way. It doesn’t delve into how Earth was sprinkled with riches, but previous studies have suggested that a meteor shower may have delivered gold and other precious metals to the planet.