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At last, a plausible explanation for the Milky Way’s heavy elements

todayJuly 8, 2021 2

Background
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Until recently it was thought neutron star mergers were the only way heavy elements (heavier than Zinc) could be produced. These mergers involve the mashup of the remnants of two massive stars in a binary system.

But we know heavy elements were first produced not long after the Big Bang when the universe was really young. Back then, not enough time had passed for neutron star mergers to have even occurred. Thus, another source was needed to explain the presence of early heavy elements in the Milky Way.

The discovery of an ancient star SMSS J2003-1142 in the Milky Way’s halo — which is the roughly spherical region that surrounds the galaxy — is providing the first evidence for another source for heavy elements, including uranium and possibly gold.

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