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Nucleosynthesis of Gold in Neutron Star Collisions

24 Oct 2013, 10:00 UTC
Nucleosynthesis of Gold in Neutron Star Collisions
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Gold is rare on Earth and it is also rare in the Universe. Unlike elements like carbon, silicon or iron, gold cannot be created within the core of a star. Instead, the creation of gold requires a more energetically cataclysmic event. Short-duration gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs) are intense flashes of gamma-rays lasting less than ~2 seconds. They are believed to be produced following the merger of compact object binaries involving two neutron stars (NS-NS) or a neutron star and a black hole (NS-BH).A compact object binary forms when both massive stars in a binary system separately explode as supernovae and leave behind their collapsed cores as a tightly bound NS-NS, NS-BH or BH-BH pair. As both compact objects circle each other, they radiate away gravitational waves and draw closer to each other until they eventually collide. Nevertheless, only collisions involving NS-NS and NS-BH pairs can produce SGRBs. “It’s a very fast, catastrophic, extremely energetic type of explosion,” says Edo Berger, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).NS-NS and NS-BH mergers are expected to create significant quantities of neutron-rich radioactive nuclei via the r-process, also known as the rapid neutron capture process, from the ejection of neutron-rich material. These radioactive ...

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