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Neutron star collision 4.6 billion years ago sent gold, platinum to Earth

By
Tauren Dyson
The violent collision of two neutron stars provided Earth with about 0.3. percent of its gold, platinum and uranium. Photo by ESA/Hubble/NASA/UPI  Photo by ESA/Hubble/NASA/UPI
The violent collision of two neutron stars provided Earth with about 0.3. percent of its gold, platinum and uranium. Photo by ESA/Hubble/NASA/UPI  Photo by ESA/Hubble/NASA/UPI | License Photo

May 3 (UPI) -- Two neutron stars collided 4.6 billion years ago near the Earth's solar system, sending the planet some fraction of its most precious metals, a new study says.

The cosmic episode provided Earth with about 0.3 percent of its gold, platinum and uranium, according to research published Wednesday in Nature.

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"This means that in each of us we would find an eyelash worth of these elements, mostly in the form of iodine, which is essential to life," Imre Bartos, a researcher at the University of Florida and study author, said in a news release. "A wedding ring, which expresses a deep human connection, is also a connection to our cosmic past predating humanity and the formation of Earth itself, with about 10 milligrams of it likely having formed 4.6 billion years ago."

To come up with their findings, the researchers contrasted numerical reproductions of the Milky Way, which is 100,000 light years in diameter, with the makeup of meteorites.

The researchers say this work may provide clues into the origins of the Earth and human life.

"Our results address a fundamental quest of humanity: Where did we come from and where are we going?" said Szabolcs Marka, an astrophysicist at Columbia University and study author. "It is very difficult to describe the tremendous emotions we felt when realized what we had found and what it means for the future as we search for an explanation of our place in the universe."

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