Neutron star collision identified as a major source for many elements on Earth

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colliding neutron stars
Artist’s impression of two neutron stars – the compact remnants of what were once massive stars – spiralling towards each other just before merging. ( Credits - Wikimedia Commons)

Space is a vast and boundary-less area full of mystery and unknown. The stars, planets and heavenly bodies exert gravitational forces on each other and which often leads to a collision between two or more planetary objects. The formation and existence of our solar system are always under question. There are many small collisions happening every minute across the universe but are unheard and unnoticed by us.

However, astrophysicists Szabolcs Marka at the University of Columbia and Imre Bartos from the University of Florida have identified a massive and violent collision of 2 neutron stars which happened 4.6 billion years ago and it may be a source of the most coveted matter which we find on Earth. The report has been published in the Nature journal.

This historic event is believed to be the source behind 0.3% of the Earth’s heaviest metals including gold, platinum etc. It also means that whatever we are today or the precious metals that we buy are somewhere or the other linked to the cosmic event which dates back 4.6 billion years. Meteors which have fallen to Earth have metals with radioactive nature. The level of radioactivity at the present instant can determine the age of the meteor; it can be calculated by knowing the decay of the radioactive element.

Scientists predict that the collision could have happened about 100 million years ago before the Earth was formed and that which led to the formation of a gas ball which later formed the milky way galaxy and our planets. Scientists predict that if any kind of similar event would have happened today the vast amount of radioactivity would completely outshine the entire night sky.

This event might just be a uniquely consequential event in our history and the study of the universe. It throws light upon the formation, processes involved, the origin and the composition of the solar system. This collision could be a part of a big cosmic puzzle which lays ahead of us and we need to employ traditional concepts of biology, geology, physics and chemistry to understand this piece of the puzzle and complete the puzzle.

Humans were always curious about where did they come from and where are they heading to. Our past, as well as our future, is a matter of curiosity and concern as we try to justify our place in the universe. More events and collisions like these need to be studied and mapped in order to gauge its effects on our humanity and our future. Space exploration and its understanding is a task which requires lots of hard work and years of patience and experience.

 

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