Scientists have figured out the likely source of our solar systems’ gold, uranium and platinum
- Two neutron stars collided near the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
- It forged precious elements such as gold, uranium, and platinum in our solar system.
- This single cosmic event gave birth to 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest elements.
- For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.
Astrophysicists from Columbia University and University of Florida have found signs of a cosmic event that forged gold, uranium and platinum and sent them to Earth.
A new study by astrophysicists Szabolcs Márka at Columbia University and Imre Bartos at the University of Florida have identified a violent collision of two neutron stars 4.6 billion years ago as the likely source of some of the most coveted matter on Earth.
This single cosmic event, close to our solar system, gave birth to 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest elements, including gold, platinum and uranium. It forms part of a growing body of evidence indicating that such mergers are the primary origin of heavy elements.
“This means that in each of us we would find an eyelash worth of these elements, mostly in the form of iodine, which is essential to life,” Bartos told Columbia news.
The astrophysicitsts were able to determine the source of the metals from meteorites forged in the early solar system that carry traces of radioactive isotopes. As these isotopes decay, they act as “clocks” that can be used to reconstruct the time they were created, Márka said.
Bartos and Márka compared the composition of meteorites to numerical simulations of the Milky Way. They found that a single neutron-star collision could have occurred about 100 million years before the formation of Earth. If such an event were to occur today, the radiation would be bright enough to outshine the entire night sky.
“We further find that there was probably a single nearby merger that produced much of the curium and a substantial fraction of the plutonium present in the early Solar System,” they conclude in their abstract in Nature.
“Our results address a fundamental quest of humanity: Where did we come from and where are we going?” Márka said.
The research was published in the journal Nature.
Receive a single WhatsApp every morning with all our latest news: click here.
Also from Business Insider South Africa:
- These are the 10 most expensive streets in Gauteng - and nine of them are in the same suburb
- South Africans can finally sell their stuff directly on Instagram – here’s how
- KFC is now selling fried chicken skin, but you'll have to go to Indonesia to get it
- South African homes keep losing value – and will keep getting cheaper in real terms for at least a couple of months
- FNB’s eBucks will soon give you 15% back on KFC meals - as long as you aren't too rich, or too poor