It was a weak signal, but it was counting one of the most violent acts in the universe, and it would soon reveal the secrets of the cosmos, including how gold was created.
Forbes estimated that the collision created an estimated $ 10 million worth of gold, or $ 10 billion.
What he witnessed in mid-August and revealed on Monday was the collision of two neutron stars, a phenomenon David H. Reitze of the California Institute of Technology described as “the most spectacular artifact in the universe.”
The crash occurred 130 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but the signal arrived on Earth only on August 17 after traveling 130 million light-years. A light year is 5.88 trillion miles.
“We already knew that the iron came from a stellar explosion, the calcium in your bones came from the stars and now we know that the gold in your alliance came from the fusion of neutron stars,” Ryan Foley, University of California at Santa Cruz .
Measurements of light and other energies emanating from the crash have helped scientists explain how the bursts of gamma rays that kill the planets are born, how fast the universe develops and where elements such as platinum and gold weigh heavily.
“That’s all you want,” said Syracuse University physics professor Duncan Brown, one of more than 4,000 scientists involved in the science bombing that triggered the crash. “This is our fantastic sighting.”
It began in a galaxy called NGC 4993, seen from Earth in the constellation Hydra. Two neutron stars, a collapsed nucleus of stars so dense that a teaspoon of their matter would weigh a billion tons, danced faster and stronger together until they collide, said Maria Drout. , the astronomer of the Carnegie Institution.
The crushing, called kilonova, generated a fierce glow of gamma rays and a gravitational wave, a slight ripple in the fabric of space and time, first theorized by Albert Einstein.
“It’s like a cosmic atomizer on a scale far beyond what humans could build,” said Andy Howell, a researcher at the Las Cumbres Observatory. “Now we know what happens when an unstoppable force finds a motionless object and is a kilonova.”
NASA’s Fermi telescope, which detects gamma rays and gravitational wave detectors in Louisiana and Washington, is part of the LIGO lab whose founders won the Nobel Prize earlier this month.
A global alert was to focus the telescopes on what has become the most observed astronomical event in history. Before August, the only other gravity waves detected by LIGO were generated by the collision of black holes. But black holes do not let out any light, so astronomers can not see anything.
This time there was a lot to see, measure and analyze: matter, light and other radiation. The Hubble Space Telescope even received a snapshot of the remanence.
Finding where the accident happened was not easy. Eventually, scientists shrunk the site to as many as 100 galaxies, began to examine them more closely and found it in the ninth galaxy they looked at.
It’s like “the classic challenge of finding a needle in the haystack with the added challenge that the needle fades and the haystack is in motion,” said Marcelle Soares-Santos, an astrophysicist at Brandeis University.
“The integrity of this image from beginning to end is unprecedented,” said Columbia University physics professor Szabolcs Marka. “There are many, many extraordinary discoveries in the discovery.”
Collision stars spew blue and hot debris, dense and unstable. Some of them have joined in heavy elements, such as gold, platinum and uranium. Scientists had suspected that collisions of neutron stars had enough power to create heavier elements, but they were not sure until they had witnessed them.
“We see gold forming,” said Brown of Syracuse.
The calculations of a telescope that measures the ultraviolet light showed that the combined mass of the heavy elements of this explosion is 1300 times the mass of the Earth. And all these things, including the lighter elements, have thrown themselves in all directions and now they pass through the universe.
Perhaps someday, the material will cluster on planets like ours formed, said Reitze, perhaps those with rich veins of precious metals.