On Monday, scientists announced that they had observed and heard the collision of a pair of dead stars. This provides them with their first glimpse of the violent process from which gold and silver in the universe are made.
Called a kilonova, the collision shook the galaxy in which it occurred 130 million light-years from Earth, in the southern constellation of Hydra, and resulted in fireworks across the universe. On August 17, the collision set off sensors both in space and on Earth and also produced a loud chirp in antennas which have been designed to study ripples in the cosmic fabric. The event made astronomers get to their telescopes as it might help answer one of the longest mysteries of the universe.
Many scientists believe that explosions such as this produce many of the heavier elements found in our universe, including gold, silver, and uranium. These elements are found in the simplest of items, such as wedding bands and watches, to more dangerous things, such as the bombs.
To get an idea on how massive the event is, the stars have masses that are as great as the Sun packed into an area the size of Manhattan.
After studying the explosion from the colliding neutron stars, scientists have concluded that the event created a cloud of gold dust many times heavier than Earth. This also confirms that kilonovas are agents of ancient cosmic alchemy.
According to Vicky Kalogera, an astronomer at Northwestern University, they have proof of this theory “for the first time ever.” Kalogera is one of the thousands of astronomers that shared the results of their studies in a set of news and academic conferences.