Collapsed stars possibly form the universe’s platinum

Kari Kimball, Staff Writer

A certain type of dying starcalled collapsars are spinning stellar stars that are collapsing into black holes as their outer layers explode in a rare type of supernova.

New research by Anna Frebel and Alexander Ji suggests that as these stars collapse into black holes, they are creating heavy elements such as gold, platinum and uranium.

As the star is collapsing, the swirling motion creates a disk of material around the black hole. This provides the necessary conditions for the creation of the heavy elements. The environment created is a space that is extremely dense with neutrons. Atomic nuclei rapidly absorb the neutrons and undergo radioactive decay to create new elements.

Another type of star, the neutron stars, are believed to also create a similar environment when two of them collide.

Astronomers discovered this during a collision between two neutron stars that produced the dense neutron cloud. The dense neutron cloud was created by spacetime ripples known as gravitational waves and light, which are often referred to as fireworks. The fireworks revealed signs of the formation of multiple heavy elements such as gold, silver and platinum.

With that being said, scientists cannot definitively determine whether or not the dying stars are creating the heavy elements. More research needs to be conducted to explain the speed of collapsing and its relation to the stars ability to create these heavy elements. Further research also needs to be done to determine the frequency and amount of product created by the collapsars.

Lighter elements do not require as densely neutron populated conditions as heavy elements to be created. Lighter elements such as carbon, oxygen and iron are formed inside stars before they start dying and turn into supernovas.

This discovery could be important for understanding how the heavy elements are made in nature. It may also help improve the makings of heavy elements in a laboratory setting.