Opening a new frontier in science, astronomers witness neutron stars colliding.

The collision of a pair of neutron stars, marked by ripples through the fabric of space-time and a flash brighter than a billion suns, has been witnessed for the first time in the most intensely observed astronomical event to date.

The extraordinary sequence, in which the two ultra-dense stars spiralled inwards, violently collided and, in all likelihood, immediately collapsed into a black hole, was first picked up by the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo).

As its twin detectors, in Louisiana and Washington state, picked up tremors in space-time that had spilled out from the merger 1.3m light years away, an alert went out to astronomers across the globe. Within hours, 70 space- and ground-based telescopes swiveled to observe the red-tinged afterglow, making it the first cosmic event to be “seen” in both gravitational waves and light.

Dave Reitze, executive director of Ligo, said: “What is amazing about this discovery is it is the first time we’ve got a full picture of one of the most violent, cataclysmic events in the universe. This is the most intense observational campaign there has ever been.”

As the stars collided, they emitted an intense beam of gamma rays and the sky was showered with heavy elements, resolving a decades-old debate about where gold and platinum come from.

“Neutron stars are at this sweet spot between a star and a black hole,” said Prof Andreas Freise, a Ligo project scientist at the University of Birmingham. “When two of them collide, we expect them to immediately collapse into a black hole, leaving behind a bit of dust and stuff.”

Previously, scientists had speculated that the sheer force of neutron star collisions would be enough to force extra neutrons into the nuclei of atoms, forging heavy elements like gold and platinum, but until now this idea was purely theoretical.

“People have been looking for that forever,” said Freise.

“This is the first real confirmation that heavy elements such as gold, platinum, and uranium are either solely or predominantly produced in binary neutron star collisions,” said Reitze. “The wedding band on your finger or the gold watch you’re wearing was most likely produced a billion years ago by two neutron stars colliding. That’s pretty cool.”

When Neutron Stars Collide

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There is much more in the article. Inquiring minds will want to give it a closer look.

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  • For thousands of years, when given a choice and when available, people have always selected gold as currency.

For further discussion, please see Bitcoin vs Dollars: Which One is a Fraud? Which One is a Ponzi Scheme?

Also consider Bitcoin “Probably Worth Zero” (not my view but it could happen).

Contrary to popular promotion by cryptocurrency advocates, bitcoin is not the new gold. Gold is gold, nothing else.

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