Ever wondered about the origins of gold? Well, clues of the formation of heavy metals like gold have been found in a cosmic crash that took place 130-million-years ago. The new finding was announced on October 16, while the signals of the cosmic crash reached Earth in August and were immediately observed by astronomers across the world.
In India, India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) carried out the observation in its Astrosat observatory.
The cosmic crash took place when two dead stars in a galaxy called NGC 4993 in the Hydra constellation collided. This collision sent out ripples of gravitational waves across the universe. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories, known as LIGO, in the US and a third detector, named Virgo, in Italy detected these waves.
This event has been termed as the "greatest fireworks show in the universe" by David Reitze from the California Institute of Technology.
Huge excitement was triggered among the scientists, who rushed to catch the one-in-a-billion chance to observe the collision between neutron stars known as a kilonova. The collapsed cores of large stars form neutron stars. Chemical changes across the universe were said to have taken place following a clash, creating heavy metals such as gold, silver, platinum and uranium.
The gold and silver mined on Earth originated in a similar kilonova, according to scientists.
“This is getting everything you wish for,” said Syracuse University physics Professor Duncan Brown, one of more than 4,000 scientists involved in the blitz of science that the crash kicked off. “This is our fantasy observation.”
“This is like a cosmic atom smasher at a scale far beyond humans would be capable of building,” said Andy Howell, a staff scientist at the Las Cumbres Observatory. “We finally now know what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object and it’s a kilonova.”
It is like “the classic challenge of finding a needle in the haystack with the added challenge that the needle is fading away and the haystack is moving,” said Marcelle Soares-Santos, an astrophysicist at Brandeis University.
“The completeness of this picture from the beginning to the end is unprecedented,” said Columbia University physics Professor Szabolcs Marka. “There are many, many extraordinary discoveries within the discovery.”
“We see the gold being formed,” said Syracuse’s Brown.
“We already knew that iron came from a stellar explosion, the calcium in your bones came from stars and now we know the gold in your wedding ring came from merging neutron stars,” said University of California Santa Cruz’s Ryan Foley.
“This is really brand new.” Almost all of the discoveries confirmed existing theories, but had not been proven — an encouraging result for theorists who have been trying to explain what is happening in the cosmos, said France Cordova, an astrophysicist who directs the National Science Foundation.
“We so far have been unable to prove Einstein wrong,” said Georgia Tech physics Professor Laura Cadonati. “But we’re going to keep trying.”
In 1916, Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves. His theory was proved after scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology confirmed the detection of gravitational waves from two black holes.
Earlier this month, Nobel prize in physics was given to three US scientists for the discovery of gravitational waves.