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Astronomers are on the hunt for traces of gold on the surfaces of some of the oldest stars in the universe in order to find the origins of heavy metals in the cosmos.
A new study uses numerical simulations of star formation in galaxies dating all the way back to the Big Bang to unlock the mystery behind the creation of heavy elements. Those include gold, platinum, uranium and plutonium.
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"To get to the foundation of the creation of the elements, you need to know how many stars were formed," Benoit Côté, a researcher from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics-Center for the Evolution of the Elements at Michigan State University and lead author of the study, told Space.com.
The current study draws on a 2017 discovery that merging neutron stars, or the collapsed cores of giant stars, created the universe's heavy elements. However, the researchers in the new study are now wondering whether neutron star mergers are the only source of gold and platinum.
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A previous study by the same team of researchers from the new study concluded that neutron stars were not the only source of heavy elements. That study found that those mergers alone could not account for all the elements created through the r-process, or the set of...
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