Gold star: Seeking the origin of gold in the universe

March 30, 2016
This illustration depicts two neutron stars colliding. As they merge, the stars eject material into space at 10 to 50 percent the speed of light. Mergers of these kinds of stars are thought to be the source of gold and other heavy metals found throughout the universe. Credit: Stephan Rosswog, Jacobs University Bremen.

So you think the gold in your ring or watch came from a mine in Africa or Australia? Well, think farther away. Much, much farther.

Michigan State University researchers, working with colleagues from Technical University Darmstadt in Germany, are zeroing in on the answer to one of science's most puzzling questions: Where did heavy elements, such as gold, originate?

Currently there are two candidates, neither of which are located on Earth - a supernova, a massive star that, in its old age, collapsed and then catastrophically exploded under its own weight; or a neutron-star merger, in which two of these small yet incredibly massive stars come together and spew out huge amounts of stellar debris.

In a recently published paper in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers detail how they are using computer models to come closer to an answer.

"At this time, no one knows the answer," said Witold Nazarewicz, a professor at the MSU-based Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and one of the co-authors of the paper. "But this work will help guide future experiments and theoretical developments."

By using existing data, often obtained by means of high-performance computing, the researchers were able to simulate production of heavy elements in both supernovae and neutron-star mergers.

"Our work shows regions of elements where the models provide a good prediction," said Nazarewicz, a Hannah Distinguished Professor of Physics who also serves as FRIB's chief scientist. "What we can do is identify the critical areas where future experiments, which will be conducted at FRIB, will work to reduce uncertainties of nuclear models."

Other researchers included Dirk Martin and Almudena Arcones from Technical University Darmstadt and Erik Olsen of MSU.

MSU is establishing FRIB as a new scientific user facility for the Office of Nuclear Physics in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

Explore further: Tiny, ancient galaxy preserves record of catastrophic event

More information: D. Martin et al. Impact of Nuclear Mass Uncertainties on the Process , Physical Review Letters (2016). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.121101

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21 comments

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HannesAlfven
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 30, 2016
The answer depends entirely upon the scientific framework itself. The gravity-centric cosmology struggles to explain high-energy events, and must therefore position them in particular specific places, oftentimes throwing in hypothetical matter to make the case. Not all frameworks will suffer from this problem, and in those other frameworks, yes, the gold can indeed be formed in place.
Captain Stumpy
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 30, 2016
and in those other frameworks, yes, the gold can indeed be formed in place
@HA
yeah... really?
so... where is the peer reviewed journal study that has demonstrated this with evidence and reputable science?

you are claiming that gravitic effects are irrelevant to your eu cosmology, but you also can't prove this with any authority ...

repeating a lie doesn't make it more true any more than belief in said lie makes it true

billpress11
5 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2016
I thought it was pretty much settled years ago that all the elements heavier then iron were created by supernovae. Why is there a need for a new explanation?
gculpex
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2016
repeating a lie doesn't make it more true any more than belief in said lie makes it true

http://phys.org/n...old.html

Check this out for proof!
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2016
When the models are good enough to predict the mix of isotopes then we'll have a pretty good answer to which source (or how much of each) is involved.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2016
http://phys.org/news/2011-09-cosmic-forging-gold.html

Check this out for proof!
@gculpex
Thanks for linking that... it directly refutes ha above in the first paragraph!

appreciate the link
LOL
love this part
Violent mergers of neutron stars in binary systems (see background information on neutron stars) offer an alternative scenario, when the two stars collide after millions of years of spiralling towards each other.
so @hannes, do the violent mergers happen by electrical shock treatment in your pseudoscience?

you know the measurements of gravitic attraction don't correspond to your "electric" attractions and they don't scale the same, right?

billpress11
5 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2016
I think for the time being I will stick with NASA as to the source of heavier than iron elements. The University of Oregon has a very good explanation for the creation of heavier than iron elements.

http://abyss.uore...c18.html

Quote from link below:
"Supernova remnants greatly impact the ecology of the Milky Way. If it were not for SNRs, there would be no Earth, and hence, no plants or animals or people. This is because all the elements heavier than iron were made in a supernova explosion, so the only reason we find these elements on Earth or in our Solar System — or any other extrasolar planetary system — is because those elements were formed during a supernova."
http://imagine.gs...nts.html
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (3) Mar 31, 2016
Not all frameworks will suffer from this problem, and in those other frameworks, yes, the gold can indeed be formed in place.


Congratulations, this made you the latest entry on my ignore list.

I'm wondering if the relative rarity of these elements (on earth) can be explained by the fact it is formed under more specific circumstances where for example iron would be formed in every star.

A better explanation why neutronstars would be a candidate would be welcome too. After all, it's made out of neutrons and no longer periodic elements (?).
gculpex
not rated yet Mar 31, 2016
http://phys.org/n...old.html

Check this out for proof!
@gculpex
Thanks for linking that... it directly refutes ha above in the first paragraph!
@hannes, do the violent mergers happen by electrical shock treatment in your pseudoscience?


One major problem: How do Neutron stars (other than exploding) send the gold evenly through space?
gculpex
5 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2016
http://phys.org/n...sun.html

Sorry Stumpy but this one says it is the other way. Who to Believe?
viko_mx
1 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2016
"I thought it was pretty much settled years ago that all the elements heavier then iron were created by supernovae. Why is there a need for a new explanation?"

This is only speculative hypothesis that can no be confirmed by direct observations or experiments. No one realy knows what happen in the super novas and what cause this phenomena. I do not name such kind of hypotesis science.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 02, 2016
Sorry Stumpy but this one says it is the other way. Who to Believe?
@gculpex
well, that is dependent upon what *you* do

my opinion: wait for validation

both can be correct and just applicable in different situations

one way of finding out which does (what, when, and where, or why) is to do high energy research like at CERN

of course, we will also likely learn a whole lot when we can get a fusion reactor on line, so there is that to consider as well

IMHO - it boils down to an extremely simple outlook
1- science is about adaptation, introduction of new information and continual change
2- follow the evidence
3- validation is stronger than singular studies which are stronger than hypothesis, which has more merit than unsubstantiated conjecture

it really is that simple

Da Schneib
5 / 5 (3) Apr 02, 2016
A better explanation why neutronstars would be a candidate would be welcome too. After all, it's made out of neutrons and no longer periodic elements (?).
The answer is, neutrons are fungible; they are unstable and decay into protons with a half-life of about 10 seconds. In a neutron star merger, the impact produces enough heat that material from the merging objects is thrown out beyond the radius where the gravity field is strong enough to prevent the electrons emitted by decaying neutrons from establishing orbits around the new protons, and as a result atoms can be formed.

The decay channel for a neutron is n->p + e + ν Since the proton is positive, the electron negative, and the neutrino neutral, they add up to the charge of the neutron, zero. Since the mass difference between the neutron and proton is greater than the electron's mass, the extra mass-energy appears as kinetic energy of the electron plus the neutrino, and there is no mass deficit.
Gigel
5 / 5 (3) Apr 03, 2016
The answer is, neutrons are fungible; they are unstable and decay into protons with a half-life of about 10 seconds.

I just checked this. According to Wikipiedia, the neutron half-life is about 10 minutes, not seconds. Also:
http://www.scienc...67905321
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (2) Apr 03, 2016
Oops, sorry, you're correct, ten minutes. I misread Wikipedia.
someone11235813
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 03, 2016
Also interesting to ponder is that all of the gold mined on Earth rained down upon it after the Earth first formed.
Da Schneib
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 04, 2016
Not sure how you came to that conclusion, @someone.
someone11235813
5 / 5 (2) Apr 04, 2016
@Da Schneib, when the Earth first formed it would have been liquid and thus heavy metals like gold would sink to the centre not float on the surface. I was not aware that this was a contentious issue.

http://phys.org/n...old.html
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2016
Very good, @someone. I had missed that article.
someone11235813
5 / 5 (2) Apr 04, 2016
@Da Schneib, now you can ponder this interesting factoid.
Rheostasis
not rated yet Apr 28, 2016

@gculpex
One major problem: How do Neutron stars (other than exploding) send the gold evenly through space?

...they don't?

The universe is nearly 100% empty space. I'm not sure where you're getting the impression that matter-- gold included-- is dispersed uniformly through space. Because it isn't.

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