The Galaxy of Precious Metals

May 29th, 2016 by

Have you ever wondered how exactly the precious metals came to be? Why are they so rare in the composition of the Earth? Although there are plenty of convincing answers to these questions provided by theology, the scientists have been doggedly pursuing the answer since at least the middle of the 20th century.

In the six-plus decades since, they have still yet to turn up any definitive or particularly compelling answers. Yet, the new discovery of a galaxy 98,000 light years away could hold the key to unlocking this puzzle.

The Lustrous Reticulum II

The galaxy in question was discovered last year orbiting our Milky Way Galaxy and is known as Reticulum II. (Galaxies and constellations are generally named for their shape.) Interestingly, Reticiulum II is absolutely loaded with precious metals—gold, silver, and platinum.

galaxy-10994_640What’s strange is that the researchers studying Reticulum II concluded that this abundance of precious metals could not have originated there. So-called “r-elements” like the precious metals are very heavy elements, and require a great deal of energy to form. In fact, this process is so energy intensive that scientists haven’t been able to replicate it in a laboratory.

Anna Frebel, a researcher and astrophysicist from MIT involved in the study, confirmed this: “The process for making [these elements] just doesn’t work on Earth. So we have had to use the stars and the objects in the cosmos as our lab.”

Just a Theory

The theory about how the precious metals came to be, scientifically, is as follows: “scientists believe that r-process elements were created by neutral star explosions in dwarf galaxies and were transported to our planet by getting embedded into stars and asteroids.” Part of why Reticulum II may help solve this mystery is that neutron star collisions are far more common in the early formation of dwarf galaxies than they were in the early history of the Universe.

This research has led to an intriguing implication—that the precious metals originally came to our planet from elsewhere in outer space. If this is the case, Reticulum II could offer a wealth of insight into how these metals are made and where else we might find them.

This news originally appeared in the Science World Report.

 

The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.