Theories on the origin of gold
There are currently two theories about this, neither of which has been definitively proven. One thing is certain, however: gold, this almost magically shimmering metal with its unique colour, has no earthly origin. Although it is now possible to produce gold from platinum with the help of particle accelerators, this is only possible at great, uneconomical expense. Gold can only be created naturally through extraordinary events in space, where unimaginable forces prevail.
The resources of gold on our earth are therefore limited, but this only makes the precious metal even more valuable. The thought that with every piece of gold jewellery you carry a part of the universe and a star from another galaxy on your body actually makes it much too bad to store gold in locked bank vaults.
At the end of its life, a star explodes and briefly lights up. This demise is called a supernova. What remains of the star at the end of the supernova depends on the classification and specific composition of the star. Some stars eject their remaining parts into space and then decay into a black hole, while others live on as a white dwarf or even a neutron star.
In a supernova, extreme conditions prevail for the individual elements. In this case, atoms take up many neutrons in a very short time, repel them again and decay.
An atomic nucleus consists of neutrons and protons, whereby the number of protons determines the atomic number and thus which chemical element it is. For example, a carbon atom has six protons and gold 79. During a supernova, conditions are so extreme that the atomic numbers also change. Thus, completely new atoms can be created from the old ones - such as gold atoms.
Another and more recent theory is that gold is formed when two neutron stars collide. Here, too, extreme conditions prevail that can be the origin of the formation of heavy elements such as gold. A neutron star is the remnant of a supernova. These stellar remnants have an extremely high density. With a diameter of just 20 kilometres, a neutron star can have up to twice the mass of our sun. By comparison, the Earth has a diameter of 12,700 kilometres and fits inside the Sun over 100 times.
A neutron star is not only very dense, it also has other extreme properties, such as a strong magnetic effect. According to this theory, a gamma-ray flash occurs when two neutron stars collide. During such a flash, which lasts less than two seconds, more energy is released than our sun will produce during its entire lifetime. Similar to the supernova theory, gold can only be created when an extraordinary event releases an unimaginable amount of energy that literally shakes up the atoms.
The impetus and evidence for this theory for many scientists was the apparent observation of a gamma-ray burst in June 2013, which was about 3.9 billion light years away from us - which is not very far by "cosmic standards". Researchers suspect the origin of the gamma-ray burst to be the collision of two neutron stars, with gold masses estimated to be about ten times the mass of our moon being ejected into space.
Due to the extreme conditions already mentioned during a supernova, the individual elements literally undertake a true journey through the periodic table. Only under these circumstances can the corresponding constellation for gold be created. During the explosion, the gold is ejected into space and can reach the earth, for example, through a meteor shower.
Because gold is very heavy, it is deposited in the Earth's core over time and reaches the surface again through volcanic eruptions. Incidentally, this theory can be applied to all elements heavier than iron, since it is only through the effects of a supernova or a collision of neutron stars that forces develop that can give rise to such heavy elements.