Did Gold Fall From Outer Space?

Image Credit: Alexander Grey

Ever wondered where gold comes from, what inspired mankind’s fascination with the shiny precious metal and where the next gold rush may be found? The following articles presents some interesting facts about gold which should answer these questions, while helping you better understand this rare commodity:

* Gold can be found scattered across the whole of planet Earth and has been worshiped almost universally for thousands of years. Reverence for the shiny metal probably originated in mankind’s worship of the Sun, whose colour closely resembles the precious metal. In the same way the value of silver, too, can possibly be linked to early people’s worship of the Moon. Just like the gods themselves, gold also display elements of immortality and neither seems to corrode or tarnish over time.

* Gold was likely the first metal known to our species and, unlike other metals which tend to be found in ore bodies and need smelting, occurs in a virtually pure and highly workable state. Evidence for mankind’s fascination with gold dates back to around 5000 BC with the oldest piece of gold jewellery yet discovered found at the Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria. By 700 BC the first money in the form of gold coins was minted in Lydia, an important city in Asia Minor.

*Gold is not created by the Earth but started out in the center of a star, and like all elements with atomic numbers larger than iron, is thought to have been formed during a massive star’s supernova explosion. During fusion protons combine to turn into heavier and heavier atoms all the way up the periodic table to iron at which point it runs out of fuel and the entire star collapses. Only in the intense heat of a supernova is it possible to create heavy elements, such as gold.

*After a supernova explosion, dusts containing heavy elements like gold atoms are thrown deep into empty space where they eventually encounter other gaseous debris and possibly condense into a solar system. In Earth’s youth, most of gold sank into the planet’s core along with vast amounts of other precious metals.

*In human history around 72,000 tonnes of gold has been mined, roughly equivalent to the size of two Olympic swimming pools. Over the last few years the mining production of gold has averaged around 2,500 tonnes per year.

*Virtually all the gold that is present in the Earth’s crust and mantle was deposited there between 3.8 and 4.1 billion years ago. During that period meteorites heavily bombarded the Earth and nearly all the gold since discovered by man has its origin in space.

*Stony asteroids contain around 3% precious metals and may be goldmines floating around in space . In 1998, a NASA spacecraft passed close to asteroid 433 Eros and estimated it may house 20 billion tons of valuable metals worth around $11 trillion at today’s prices. This includes gold, platinum, titanium, zinc, aluminum and other raw materials. Its worth noting, however, that Article 2 of the Outer Space Treaty states: “Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

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