Published: Mon, October 16, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Scientists discover incredible origin of gold to herald 'new chapter in astrophysics'

Scientists discover incredible origin of gold to herald 'new chapter in astrophysics'

Though astronomers have witnessed ripples in the fabric of space in time before (created by objects moving in the Universe), this is the first time in history the event was detectable by regular light telescopes.

The scientific community has awaited Monday's announcement with bated breath, as the revelations could change our fundamental understanding of the wider universe and the unseen forces that control our entire existence. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is based in the USA, the Virgo detector (based in Europe) were behind the discovery, with 70 different observatories. That observation was widely viewed as the first hard evidence to support Einstein's theory, which was published in 1915 and is still considered a key to modern astronomy. "It's the fulfillment of dozens, hundreds, thousands of people's efforts, but it's also the fulfillment of an idea suddenly becoming real", says Peter Saulson of Syracuse University, who has spent more than three decades working on the detection of gravitational waves.

The breakthrough discovery of colliding neutron stars marks the first time both gravitational waves and light have been detected from the same cosmic collision. "Once released from the neutron stars' gravitational field", the matter "would transmute into a cloud full of the heavy elements we see on rocky planets like Earth", Dent explained.

Over subsequent weeks, an extensive observation campaign using a variety of instruments was mounted around the globe and in space to try to learn more about what had caused the new pinpoint of light.

Astronomers, including a team at Cal State Fullerton, have detected two neutron stars merging together, proving for the second time in two years a key element of Albert Einstein's theories about the universe.

Never seen before in astronomy: the merger of two neutron stars has been observed and picked apart for the first time.

But the heaviest element a star can make, scientists say, is iron - number 26 on the Periodic Table of 100+ entries. The kilonova sent radioactive, heavy elements like gold and platinum shooting outward, blasting through space at one-fifth the speed of light, the equivalent of about 134 million miles per hour.

"When the spectrum appeared on our screens I realized that this was the most unusual transient event I'd ever seen", Stephen Smartt, who was observing with the ESO's New Technology Telescope, said in the statement. But after four days it dimmed to a boring red.

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The discoveries are being hailed by astrophysicists as the most important of a generation and for most a once in a career event.

Rumors about a new discovery in the ongoing search for gravitational waves have already been buzzing through the media since late summer, when astronomer J. Craig Wheeler from the University of Texas tweeted about an optical counterpart to LIGO.

"Another exciting possibility is that if the radio emission is coming from a cocoon, we may be able to directly image it with high-resolution radio telescope systems using antennas separated by thousands of miles", said Kunal Mooley, of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who is the principal investigator of the JAGWAR program. Neutron stars are ultra-dense stellar remnants. And suddenly we know that all our gold, our rings and treasures, was probably created in neutron star collisions. On top of that, two NASA satellites detected a GRB signal that arrived just two seconds after the GW source, from approximately the same area of the sky.

Professor Alberto Vecchio said, "Neutron stars are quite remarkable objects: one and a half times the mass of the Sun, primarily in the form of neutrons is packed in a region of the size of Birmingham".

Every previous observation of gamma-ray bursts has involved a jet pointing from the source to Earth.

Work was also carried out on the discoveries by Dr Antonio Martin-Carrillo and Lána Salmon at UCD's School of Physics. LIGO was also the place where gravitational waves have been previously detected.

"Radio telescopes now are our key to learning the physics of this explosion".

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