Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Golden Galactic

For more than 60 years, scientists have struggled for answers regarding the formation of some of the most precious elements on the periodic table such as silver, gold and platinum. All of that has changed though as recently published findings have shown that the origins could be traced to a distant small galaxy.

The heavy elements, collectively known as the “r-process” are valued in virtually all spheres of life from fashion to gaming. Casinos for example use gold and/or silver plated bars as chips. Online casinos such as those listed here, newcasinosonline.org depict valuables in gold. Even in web design, it is common to find gold buttons used to depict value or guarantee. 

Where is the r-process from?

The production of the heavy elements requires so much energy and it has therefore been very difficult to replicate them experimentally. Scientists have therefore had to use the stars and objects in the cosmos as the testing ground.

The first inroads into the formation was made in the early 1950s when nuclear physicists worked out that extreme conditions in the cosmos featuring subatomic particles known as neutrons are the forges for r-process elements and neutron stars were the most plausible sources of the neutrons. However, there was no observational evidence to back this up. 

The recently published research has now addressed this gap. An analysis of the starlight from some of the brightest stars in the Reticulum II galaxy, which is located over 100,000 light years from Earth, confirmed that the stars had massive amounts of r-process elements. 

Alexander Ji discovered the Reticulum II stars while using the Magellan telescopes in the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. He first published his findings in a report published in the March 31st edition of the journal Nature

The study was hailed as the definitive confirmation that exotic neutron star mergers happened very early in the history of the dwarf galaxy Reticulum II and by extension, other small galaxies. It finally confirmed the fact therefore that star mergers are without doubts responsible for most of the elements that are so precious to us all across the universe. 

What next for the r-process research?

The next frontier in the research is to determine how star mergers happened and to get more insight into the subatomic particles that made up the forge. Closer analysis of the Reticulum II should yield more answers on this front within the nearest future.

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