Tree, South of France, photograph printed on glass with gold leaf, from the seriesAu
, by Kate Breakey. The series was inspired by a theory according to which gold (Au) was produced bythe collision of neutron stars. As Breakey describes the theory:
The events that produce most of the gold in the universe are called gamma-ray bursts.These occur when two neutron stars, the cores of dead stars, collideunder the force of gravity.Neutron stars are as dense as atomic nuclei: though they are only a few miles in diameterthey have more mass than the Sun.A pair of dead, dark neutron stars will spin around each other for millions of years at millions of miles per hour, slowly but constantly pulling each other closer. In the moment that they finally touch, they release moregamma-ray energythan existsin the rest of the universe.Much of their mass collapses into a black hole, but the remainder produces an enormous explosion of gamma rays and newly formed elements, including gold.Some of that stardust joined with other elements to form Earths core; other quantities were deposited in the Earths crust by asteroids that arrived 3.8 billion years ago, during the so-called Late Heavy Bombardment.The Ancient Egyptians believed that gold was the flesh of their Sun god, Ra.