New research has revealed that collisions of neutron stars have given rise to heavy elements in the Solar System.
Two neutron stars colliding with each other is an extremely rare event. However, astronomers suspect that such an event could happen in our galaxy every 100,000 years.
This is one of the essential processes in the creation of the Universe as we know it, since these violent events are one of the few forces capable of creating the heaviest elements in the periodic table.
To find the location and time of the merging, scientists analyzed the materials that were created in an explosion of this type to find out how long ago they appeared. With that, they were able to hypothesize about the conditions of the galaxy in the past to find out where the neutron stars merged.
In January, a team of astronomers presented the results at the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii.
“Each isotope is a timer that starts with the explosion,” said Szabolcs Marka, a physicist at Columbia University. The radioactive versions of the different elements formed in the explosion decay at predictable rates, that is, if it is possible to know in which elements they decompose and how much there is of each element, it is possible to find out how long ago they were created.
“There is only one point in time common to all of them,” he said: about 100 million years before the formation of the Solar System. The place where the Solar System was formed was about 1,000 light-years from the region where the explosion occurred.
A neutron star, the nucleus of a collapsing star, is one of the densest objects in the universe, where matter is so concentrated that it does not obey the normal laws of physics, explains Sputnik News.
When two stars of this type attract each other, they slowly begin a spiral movement towards a very strong collision, which pushes the atoms against each other with such force that it can join them together and create progressively heavier elements.
This hypothesis was proved, for the first time, in an article published on Nature in October last year, in which scientists report that they discovered that the merging of neutron stars created strontium, a heavy element found in Earth’s soil and rocks.