Ever thought maybe we spend too much time trading gold, and not enough just plain making the stuff? Alchemy is the ancient science of transmuting lesser elements into gold. Or at least, trying to. Many have tried but no one has done it successfully yet, and if they have they kept their mouths shut. Clearly, any sort of success would be the gold news of the millennium. And although we’re not there yet, yesterday was one hell of a step.
Chemists and physicists have claimed for decades now that heavier elements are made during supernova explosions, when dying stars collapse on themselves and create intense pressures. Stars are already pretty darn hot and pressurized, so these collapses drive things into almost unthinkable extremes. Elements are ripped apart and reformed, forming heavy metals like platinum, uranium and our old friend gold. On Monday scientists announced the first observation of two neutron stars colliding, with the resulting “kilonova” spewing heavy elements out into the universe. This is the first time such an event has ever been observed, and deciphering all the data will take years.
Pertinent to gold news, scientists did detect the metal in the emissions spectrum. So alchemists now have a working formula. Step 1: Start with two neutron stars. Step 2: Slam them together… The downside of course is that anything within a third of a light-year is probably doomed – bummer. And it’s hard to hide the purchase of two neutron stars from the wife – maybe it’s time for a bigger garage? Today’s featured article gives more details on the discovery, including another observation of the elusive gravitational waves, hurrah!