TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - There's big news from 130 million years ago. We have an excuse for being so late. The event happened so far out in space the first signs of it reached Earth a short time ago.
For astrophysicists, the event is scientific gold---and as a bonus it shows how gold forms.
An explosion and ripple in space sent a ripple of excitement through the world of physics and astronomy.
“This was maybe the exciting event for my field that I can remember."
Doctor Sam Gralla is an astrophysicist at UA. He's talking about a very special sort of explosion very sensitive instruments detected and measured in deep space.
Two neutron stars were orbiting around each other out in space but finally their gravity pulled them together into a massive explosion---an explosion so massive it creates waves in gravity and created waves in time.
Besides creating a ripple in space, time and gravity, this explosion blasted out the electromagnetic energy we call light. That's the first time scientists have seen all that happen at once. That relationship confirms a lot of what Einstein's Theory of Relativity was talking about.
The neutron stars also showed us precious metals like gold form in the incredible forces of a neutron star explosion.
Sam Gralla says, “These neutron stars which are the size of Manhattan but the mass of the sun, they're going around each other almost a thousand times a second. They merge in a spectacular explosion and the ejecta which contains heavy elements like gold are strewn out into space and disperses and eventually they'll form into planets like ours."
By some estimates gold, platinum, and other precious metals from this explosion are ten times the mass of Earth and the mass of Earth is about 13 Octillion pounds. But that gold is just a hard to catch cloud of space dust until it becomes part of a planet.