How the star dies, however, depends on what type of star it is. That material, since it came from neutron stars, is very rich in neutrons, and as a result, is very efficient at forming these heavy elements, including gold. Some of the material gets spewed out into space. 4. But now, scientists have announced a new theory for these highly valuable elements, this one involving two ultra-dense neutron stars and one spectacularly violent, grossly expensive collision. It won't make it into your hands or onto your teeth (you do you) until it finds a big cloud of particles. There are clouds of hydrogen between stars. After hitting the surface at 50 million km/h the shock blows the star apart. Artist's impression of neutron star collision via NASA. The core turns into a neutron star, a compact atomic nucleus with the mass of the Sun but 10 km in size. This explanation didn't, however, quite manage to explain where the more dense elements got their start. A massive star will undergo a supernova explosion. Supernova, any of a class of violently exploding stars whose luminosity after eruption suddenly increases many millions of times its normal level. Because while the majority of light elements come with a fairly simple recipe, a heavier one like gold requires 79 protons, 79 electrons, and 118 neutrons—that's a hell of lot of ingredients. Thus, for a solar system to even just approach Kardashev Level I, its star must have formed somewhere near the ejecta of a neutron star collision. Edo Berger, the astronomer who led the research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, describes the process: When they make contact, several exciting things happen very quickly. Neutron stars get that—they also produce about eight times that amount of platinum. To put it bluntly, you, dear reader, would die. To the get the latter, you'd need to start with a star about 4 to 8 times the size of our sun. Which sucks. A supernova is the explosion of a star -- the largest explosion that takes place in space. Down in the interior of stars, the high pressure and heat cooks up elements like carbon and oxygen atoms (the stuff we're made of). Previously, astronomers had been under the impression that the heavy elements—gold, platinum, lead, uranium, etc.—came from supernova explosions. I'm guessing that this would mean that the first couple of generations of stars in the Milky Way would not qualify, and that, therefore, our star was formed in a kind of temporal Goldilocks zone — not so early as to miss out on the neutron star collision heavy metal ejecta, not so late as to ... well, miss out the the neutron star collision heavy metal ejecta. However, some hydrogen fusion will occur in … Born from the explosive death of another, larger stars, these tiny objects pack quite a punch. Maybe we could call that the Cinderella Zone — early enough to the ball to dance with the prince, not so late as to miss the music. Which is why it takes these absurdly dense neutron stars, which come packing way more atomic supplies, to give us all those beautiful, heavy, glittering goods. When the core runs out of hydrogen fuel, it will contract under the weight of gravity. But that's neither here nor there.). Several billion years after its life starts, a star will die. Some of them are known as "stellar nurseries" because of the number of stars being born there. Most of the material actually collapses to form a black hole. Put another way, this adds another layer of complexity to the Great Filter. Which, as you may have already guessed, is where neutron stars get their name. (Of course, if you actually did extract a teaspoon of neutronium goo, you'd lose all that wonderful gravitational force holding everything together, and the whole thing would immediately explode into a giant mass of neutrons about the size of a planet that would then break down to its individual proton and electron parts. In other words — probably no ETs close by and communicating. Then, as the gold particles come together and the planet applies geological pressure, the particles will coalesce and, after about 1 billion years, become something you can see with your naked eye and subsequently covet. I know someone is going to suggest I'm being dull and unimaginative for this, but I just don't see complex civilizations forming without good access to heavy metals (or Heavy Metal for that matter, but that's another story...). Everything you need to know about and expect during, the most important election of our lifetimes, Edo Berger, the astronomer who led the research at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, describes the process. After seeing a flash of light called a short gamma-ray burst (GRB) far, far way in the constellation Leo, astronomers were quickly able to deduce (with the help of a few theoretical models) that what they were seeing was the radioactive afterglow from a gargantuan mass of heavy metals created in the wake of a neutron star collision. With this new theory, it's incredibly likely that all of our beautiful gold originates from this massively violent destructive force. If the remnant of the explosion is 1.4 to about 3 times as massive as our Sun, it will become a neutron star. And this is what NASA's Swift space telescope observed during an all-sky survey on June 3. These will eventually get shoved together by gravity and come out a beautiful solar system. The core of a massive star that has more than roughly 3 times the mass of our Sun after the explosion will do something quite different. Neutron stars are city-size stellar objects with a mass about 1.4 times that of the sun. Some of the material then gets sucked into the black hole. So under most circumstances, these insanely dense dead stars will float around the universe doing no one any harm. In a few days it will be 10x the size of the original star Essentially, we're all here to today because some star somewhere in space exploded once upon a time. It can either turn into a black hole or emerge from its supernova cocoon as a neutron star. This sounds like something that we need to factor into the Drake Equation. But while mind-boggling in quantity, it's not quite gold as you imagine it; what you're getting from a neutron collision is atomized gold. But in binary star systems, the two are destined to collide. What happens after a supernova occurs depends on a number of things, but hydrogen isn’t even close to the fastest thing that gets blown away from the dying star. When a massive star enters Type II, Type Ib, or Type Ic supernova—or in other words, when its core is essentially crushed by the force of its own gravity—there are two potential outcomes. The proper Supernova The hot glowing surface expands quickly making the fireball brighter again. So when it inevitably comes time for that star to die, that explosion shoots out all of the ingredients for life as we know it. Previously, scientists had only been able to hypothesize that GRBs were the result of two colliding neutron stars, but now we have actual proof. Once the star burns off enough nuclear fuel to the point that the core can no longer support itself, gravity finally wins and collapses the core with enough force to cause protons and electrons to assimilate. When a star ‘goes supernova,’ considerable amounts of matter may be blasted into space with such a burst of energy as to … And considering how many particles these neutron stars have pushed together (literally until they can be pushed together no more), it makes sense that two of them combined would be able to make quite a bit of gold—enough to equal about 20 times the mass of Earth, to be more specific. Which is also enough to fill around 100 trillion oil tankers. But hey, gold isn't everyone's thing. Which creates neutrons. To get an idea of just how dense a neutron star is, a mere teaspoon of the stuff would weigh about 10 billion tons. [Sydney Morning Herald, NASA, National Geographic]. So friends, when you go home tonight, make sure to hug your gold tight and thank it for being here—it's had pretty rough ride. That is the event that causes the gamma-ray burst. Which is an incredibly cool thought. Stars Like the Sun. Previously, astronomers had been under the impression that the heavy elements—gold, platinum, lead, uranium, etc.—came from supernova explosions.

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