Gold's Origins Discovered ... in Space

Star collision produces untold quantities of the shiny stuff

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 18, 2013 10:10 AM CDT | Updated Jul 18, 2013 10:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you've got, say, a gold wedding ring, you are currently wearing a memento from the collision of two neutron stars. Or at least, that's what scientists hypothesize after witnessing one such collision in space, seemingly answering a longstanding scientific quandary, the LA Times reports. Neutron stars are the superdense husks left over after supernovas. Scientists caught two of them colliding recently, and they believe the tail streaking out of that explosion contained gold, to the tune of 10 parts per million.

That may not sound like a lot, but to put it in perspective, the gold resulting from that one collision would, at current prices, be worth $10 octillion dollars, they say (and yes, that is a real number). It's also enough to lead scientists to believe that all gold in the universe originated this way. Gold's origins had been mysterious because, unlike most elements, it couldn't have formed within a supernova. "We are all star stuff," one astronomer said, paraphrasing Carl Sagan, "and our jewelry is colliding-star stuff."

  (Shutterstock)
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