Scientists have discovered the first indication of nuclear fission occurring between stars. This discovery supports the idea that when neutron stars collide together, they produce “superheavy” elements – heavier than the heaviest elements in the periodic table – which then fall apart via Nuclear fission To birth elements like gold into your jewelry.
Nuclear fission is basically the opposite Nuclear fusion. While nuclear fusion refers to the breaking down of lighter elements to form heavier elements, nuclear fission is a process in which energy is released when heavy elements split to form lighter elements. Nuclear fission is also well known. It’s actually the basis of the nuclear power plants that generate energy here Land -However, it was never seen happening between stars before now.
“People thought that fission was happening in the universe, but until now, no one had been able to prove it,” said Matthew Mombor, co-author of the research and a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, He said in a statement.
The team of researchers, led by North Carolina State University scientist Ian Roederer, combed through data on a wide range of elements in stars to discover the first evidence that nuclear fission can occur when neutron stars merge. These findings could help solve the mystery of where UniverseHeavy elements come from.
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Scientists know that nuclear fusion is not only the main source of energy for stars, but it is also the force that forms a variety of elements, the heaviest of which is iron.
However, the picture of the so-called nucleosynthesis of heavier elements such as gold and uranium, was somewhat more ambiguous. Scientists suspect that these valuable and rare heavy elements originate from two incredibly dense dead stars – Neutron stars – They collide and merge, creating an environment violent enough to create elements that cannot be created even in the cores of the most unstable stars.
The evidence for nuclear fission discovered by Mumpower and the team comes in the form of a relationship between “tiny light metals,” such as silver, and “rare-earth nuclei,” such as europium, that appear in some stars. Scientists saw that when one of these groups of elements increases, the corresponding elements in the other group also increase.
The team’s research also indicates that elements with atomic masses have a number of elements Protons And Neutrons In the atomic nucleus – there may be more than 260 neutron star collisions, even if this existence is brief. This is much heavier than many of the elements at the “heavy end” of the periodic table.
“The only plausible way this could arise between different stars is if there is a consistent process at work during the formation of heavy elements,” Mumpower said. “This is incredibly profound and is the first evidence of fission in the universe, confirming the theory we proposed several years ago.”
“As we get more observations, the universe says, ‘Hey, there’s a signature here, and it can only come from fission.'”
Neutron stars and nuclear fission
Neutron stars are created when massive stars reach the end of their fuel supply for intrinsic nuclear fusion, which means the energy they had to support them against their own internal thrust gravity It stops. As the outer layers of these dying stars collapse, stellar cores with masses ranging from one to two times the mass of stars are formed. the sun It collapses to about 12 miles (20 kilometers) wide.
This fundamental breakdown happens very quickly ElectronsThe protons are forced together, creating a sea of neutrons so dense that just a tablespoon of neutron star “matter” would weigh more than a billion tons if brought to Earth.
When these extreme stars exist in binary pairs, they spiral around each other. As they orbit each other, they lose angular momentum because they emit intangible ripples in spacetime called angular momentum Gravitational waves . This causes neutron stars to collide and eventually merge, unsurprisingly given their extreme and bizarre nature, creating an extremely violent environment.
This final neutron star merger releases a wealth of free neutrons, particles normally associated with protons in atomic nuclei. This could allow other atomic nuclei in these environments to quickly capture these free neutrons – a process called rapid neutron capture or “r-process.” This allows the atomic nucleus to become heavier, leading to the formation of superheavy and unstable elements. These superheavy elements can then undergo fission to split into lighter, more stable elements such as gold.
In 2020, Mumpower predicted how the “fissile fragments” of the nucleus generated by the r process would be distributed. Mumpower collaborator and TRIUMF scientist Nicole Fach then calculated how the r process would co-produce fine light metals such as ruthenium, rhodium, palladium and silver – as well as rare earth nuclei, such as europium, gadolinium and dysprosium. And holmium.
This prediction can be tested not only by looking at neutron star mergers, but also by looking at element abundances in stars that have been enriched with material created by the r process.
This new research looked at 42 stars and found the exact correlation predicted by Fash, showing a clear sign of the fission and decay of elements heavier than those in the periodic table, further confirming that neutron star collisions are indeed the sites where elements heavier than iron are forged.
“The correlation is very strong in r-enhanced stars where we have sufficient data. All time Nature producescornOf silver, they also produce proportionately heavier rare earth nuclei. “The formation of these clusters of elements is well underway. We have shown that only one mechanism could be responsible – fission – and people have been racking their brains about this since the 1950s,” Mumpower concluded.
The team’s research was published in the December 6 issue of the journal Sciences.
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