How was gold discovered in space by the James Webb Space Telescope?

Artist’s impression of a kilonova: two neutron stars merging (Dana Berry Skyworks Digital)

Although not everything that glitters is gold, the James Webb Space Telescope was able to determine the existence of this material in the depths of the universe.

“This is the first time that we have been able to verify that metals heavier than iron and silver were formed quite recently before us, such as gold,” said astrophysicist Eleonora Troja of the University of Rome, one of the scientists. Were part of the study. , to prove.

Troja and the scientists accompanying him on the probe have analyzed an unusually long burst of high-energy radiation, known as a gamma ray burst (GRB), and determined that it was the result of two ultradense neutron stars. Originated from collision. More importantly, this result allowed the team to observe flashes of light emanating from the same event, confirming that these mergers are the ones that produce elements like gold.

Observations made using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Hubble Space Telescope allowed scientists to see lattices of gold and heavier elements, which may help us better understand what drives these powerful neutron star merger events. How do they generate the only turbulent atmosphere in the universe? This is enough to create elements even heavier than iron, such as silver and gold, resulting in a flash of light called a kilonova.

“It was exciting to study a kilonova like we had never seen before using the powerful eyes of Hubble and JWST,” Troja said. He said GRBs are the most powerful energy bursts in the known universe and have previously been associated with star mergers. Neutron. But experts say that this discovery is completely different.

Scientists specified that these events could be divided into two groups. On the one hand, there are long GRBs that last longer than 2 seconds and, on the other hand, there are short GRBs that last less than 2 seconds. While neutron star mergers have been associated with short GRBs, long GRBs are believed to result from the collapse of larger stars, not as a result of such collisions.

cosmic gold mine

Stars are like stellar furnaces that create the elements of the periodic table, starting with the nuclear fusion of hydrogen with helium in their cores and continuing with the fusion of helium with heavier elements like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon.

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