Scientists in US observe neutron stars colliding
PARIS - AFP
For the first time, scientists have witnessed the cataclysmic crash of two ultra-dense neutron stars in a galaxy far away, and concluded that such impacts forged at least half the gold in the Universe.
Shockwaves and light flashes from the collision travelled some 130 million light-years to be captured by Earthly detectors on August 17, excited teams revealed at press conferences held around the globe on Oct. 16 as a dozen related science papers were published in top academic journals.
“We witnessed history unfolding in front of our eyes: two neutron stars drawing closer, closer... turning faster and faster around each other, then colliding and scattering debris all over the place,” co-discoverer Benoit Mours of France’s CNRS research institute said.
The groundbreaking observation solved a number of physics riddles and sent ripples of excitement through the scientific community.
Most jaw-dropping for many, the data finally revealed where much of the gold, platinum, uranium, mercury and other heavy elements in the Universe came from.
Telescopes saw evidence of newly-forged material in the fallout, the teams said -- a source long suspected, now confirmed.
“It makes it quite clear that a significant fraction, maybe half, maybe more, of the heavy elements in the Universe are actually produced by this kind of collision,” said physicist Patrick Sutton, a member of the US-based Laser
Typically about 20 kilometers in diameter, but with more mass than the Sun, they are highly radioactive and ultra-dense, a handful of material from one weighs as much as Mount Everest.