James Webb Space Telescope helps scientists find freshly forged gold in the cosmos: ‘It was thrilling’

Scientists have analyzed an unusually long blast of high-energy radiation, known as a gamma-ray burst (GRB), and determined that it originated from the collision of two ultradense neutron stars. And, importantly, this result helped the team observe a flash of light emanating from the same event that confirms these mergers are the sites that create elements like gold.

The observations, made using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Hubble Space Telescope, allowed scientists to see gold and heavy elements forged, which could help us better understand how these powerful neutron star merger events generate the only environments in the universe turbulent enough to create elements heavier than iron, such as silver and gold which results in a flash of light called a kilonova.  

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