There was a tradition in ancient society to weigh people in gold. It was done to prove the worthiness of the person and to flaunt the luxury and riches of the person. Gold is so expensive now that you can only think of doing it. But why is it scarce and how is gold formed? Let’s find out.

As with virtually every metal and material on earth, be it gold, silver, iron, rock, or one of the many other elements, science has always asked, how did it all come about? What factors were essential when atoms and molecules came together? What made physics shape like this in the first place?

Today we will get to the bottom and find out how gold is formed. In the end, they are difficult to answer, after all, at the time of the creation of gold and the like, there was no one, let alone someone to ask the question.

How gold formed

How is gold formed?

In fact, the first clues to how precious metals can be created can be found in the vastness of the universe. To understand this more precisely, you have to travel back in time about 13.8 billion years, to the Big Bang. Only if we try to understand the origin of the universe a little more precisely can we understand the origin of everything that is present in the form of physical matter in the universe. Of course, we will not be able to achieve a true understanding yet, after all, we only partially understand what happened at that time. The most prominent example is probably Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest geniuses that the earth has ever seen and whose theses, research and calculations are largely due to today’s knowledge of what is going on in the big black nothing.

Hawking himself has followed this attempt quite impressively throughout his life. What is certain is that the Big Bang took place in the geographic center of the universe, which continues to grow today and forever like a never-ending explosion.

What happened during the big bang?

Shortly after the big bang, the universe was full of tumbling and hurled atoms. Some came together to form molecules, broke again, and collided with others. After a while, the first stars formed in this way. Since the universe was still relatively small, the stars collided with each other. It was a huge, uncontrollable chain reaction of explosions, fire, nuclear reactions, and generally apocalyptic conditions. You can call it a catastrophically fast vortex from colliding fusion reactors because that is what a star is. Our sun is one of the survivors of this epic battle of stars, although it is still innumerable, but compared to a few at that time.

Formation of gold

But this is where we come closer to the question of how gold is formed. Every battle leaves corpses and in this case, the bodies of stars which are also referred to as neutron stars. Neutron stars are collapsed nuclei of stars that have already burned out and are very dense. However, the cores are sometimes as large as an entire planet.

If two neutron stars collide with each other, the matter is created at the center of this process by an almost infinite amount of energy. The matter here is elements and which ones are formed actually depends on the chemical and physical composition of the two stars.

Until recently, it was assumed that gold would be created by supernovae of particularly large stars, but only in June 2013 did a so-called gamma-ray flash give science the idea that this may not be the case. The problem with supernovae is that even they cannot release the energy needed to produce gold. Supernovae can produce iron but not gold.

Gamma-ray flash 

Gamma ray flash
Image: © NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester

The gamma-ray flash observed in June 2013 did not last longer than two-tenths of a second. And yet that was enough to provide science with a lot of information. The flash had, therefore, come from a recent collision between two neutron stars. What amazed the astrophysicists, however, was a kind of afterglow that went out more slowly and was almost visible to the naked eye, especially in the infrared range. The assumption that they subsequently made is that the decay of radioactive substances takes place in this afterglow. And in this very process, more stable and heavier elements than iron can be created – including gold.

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That is how gold is formed. However, what really brings the true sparkle into our eyes as gold lovers is the sheer amount of gold that can arise from such a process. The researchers assumed that at the same gamma-ray flash, a lot of gold about one hundredth the size of our sun was thrown into space. That alone is a multiple of the size of our earth. In the meantime, it is clear that all gold on earth does not come from the earth’s core as initially suspected, but from outer space. Made and baked in the furnace, when dead stars collide.

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