Image Credit: Babak Tafreshi; Inset: Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital, Inc.

Cosmic Forge of Rare Heavy Elements Discovered

Telescopes pinpoint optical glow of a binary neutron star merger detected in gravitational waves

The precious elements in our Earth-bound bling are thought to have been forged in ancient fiery cataclysms, when pairs of neutron stars spiraled together and merged into black holes. The Blanco, SOAR, and SMARTS 1.3m telescopes at CTIO recently pinpointed and studied the light from such a merger. The first optical counterpart to a gravitational wave detection, the discovery confirms that merging neutron star binaries are indeed major cosmic production sites of rare heavy elements.

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