noao1705 — Science Release
Cosmic Forge of Rare Heavy Elements Discovered
16 October 2017: The precious elements in our Earth-bound bling, gold and platinum, are thought to have been forged in ancient fiery cataclysms, when pairs of neutron stars spiraled together and merged into black holes. A similar event, the merger of a neutron star binary, was recently detected in gravitational waves by two gravitational wave observatories (Advanced LIGO and Virgo) and at optical-infrared wavelengths by the Blanco, SOAR, and SMARTS 1.3m telescopes at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachón. The detected optical emission, the first optical counterpart to a gravitational wave event, confirms that binary neutron star mergers are indeed major cosmic production sites of rare heavy elements.