back to article Wondering where the strontium in your old CRT monitor came from? Two colliding neutron stars show us

For the first time astroboffins have discovered strontium, a heavy element nestled near the bottom left hand side of the periodic table, being manufactured in space by the collision of two neutron stars. The findings, reported in a paper in Nature on Wednesday, are a vital piece of the puzzle to understanding how elements …

  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Great boffinry

    As Colonel John 'Hannibal' Smith might say: "I love when two neutron stars come together"

    1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: Great boffinry

      It evidently scares the stronzo out of them.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Great boffinry

      I pity the fool who thinks raw science like this is a waste of money.

  2. BebopWeBop Silver badge


    I must say I had never really given it much thought - but it's nice to know thanks....

    I love the smell of two neutron stars coming together, it smells of new elements

    1. Vincent Ballard

      Re: Nop

      Note that the headline is misleading: the actual paper says that only about 30% of strontium is produced by this process. It's more the other way round: the production of strontium is good evidence for the theory that these dense objects are neutron stars.

  3. smudge Silver badge

    Unique naming

    Strontium is the only element named after a place in the UK -

    1. Graham Cunningham

      Re: Unique naming

      And element #1 is named after the nearby Scottish Hydro, now SSE. ;)

      1. Symon Silver badge

        Re: Unique naming

        Element 46 is named after Baron Lloyd-Webber's gaffe in London. Pretty sure...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Unique naming

          "Baron Lloyd-Webber's gaffe in London"

          Which one? That fucker has ruined so many childhood favorites that I've lost count ...

          No need to give me the hook, I'm exiting all by myself ...

          1. STOP_FORTH

            Re: Unique naming

            He means gaff, Jake! Palladium in this case.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Unique naming

              I know. Ever gaff a fish?

              1. STOP_FORTH

                Re: Unique naming

                Never caught anything that big!

                1. Symon Silver badge

                  Re: Unique naming

                  Sorry for the gaff gaffe.

                  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

                    Re: Unique naming

                    Almost a giffgaff gaff gaffe.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    It's awesome when Science advances

    So, neutron star mergers make the heavier elements. It's nice to have confirmation for that, but that brings a question to my mind.

    A neutron star is, if I'm not mistaken, a star that failed its end-of-life bid to become a black hole. So, if I understood that correctly, if a neutron star is the last step before punching a hole in the Universe, then how many neutron stars can merge before the result finally turns into a black hole ?

    Ideas, anyone ?

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: It's awesome when Science advances

      Depends how big they are, and how much material is thrown off during the collision. A black hole has a very clearly defined point at which it comes into existence - gather a certain amount of mass inside a particular volume, and you have a black hole. A neutron star can have a range of masses and volumes, and interactions between them can result in varying amounts of material either merging into one body or being thrown off into space. So there's no simple answer; in one case a collision between two neutron stars might be enough to form a black hole, while in another case you could have an infinite chain of colliding neutron stars that never form a black hole.

    2. Symon Silver badge

      Re: It's awesome when Science advances

      You need to ask Richard C. Tolman, J. Robert Oppenheimer and George Volkoff. It doesn't matter (haha) how many there are, it (mainly) depends on how heavy the neutron stars are.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's awesome when Science advances

      then how many neutron stars can merge before the result finally turns into a black hole ?

      The simple answer, if the neutron stars completely merge?


      (A neutron star must be heavier than ~1.4 solar masses or it won't overcome degeneracy pressure and convert protons & electrons into neutrons, it must also be lighter than ~2.2 solar masses or it will have already collapsed to form a black hole. 1.4 x 2 > 2.2 therefore a black hole will always be the result.)

      The more realistic answer?

      It depends...

    4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Thank you all for your insights. I have once again learned something fascinating about our Universe.

  5. Mage Silver badge


    I think from about 1927 all valve (tube in USA) filaments, and later when developed the indirect heated cathodes, had the similar Barium in the coating. I don't remember Strontium being mentioned.

    Supernova for a long time have been thought to be the factories for heavier elements. Anything from beyond Iron needs collisions? Is iron the stable point between fusion and fission? Which suggested EE 'Doc' Smith was doing leg pulling, as he certainly knew enough. Skylark series 1928 to 1930s, also a late one in 1963. Inventor of Space Opera.

    Edit. Hmm. Allegedly he started writing Skylark in 1921.

    I expect Nova, supernova etc are a lot more common than colliding Neutron stars, but great observations anyway.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Crt?

      "Is iron the stable point between fusion and fission? Which suggested EE 'Doc' Smith was doing leg pulling, as he certainly knew enough. Skylark series 1928 to 1930s, also a late one in 1963. Inventor of Space Opera."

      In Skylark, the magic sciency stuff happens as a reaction between copper and a new fictional element. I suspect you're thinking of his stories later collected and shoehorned into the first book of the Lensman series, in which iron is used as the new source of nuclear power.

      "Edit. Hmm. Allegedly he started writing Skylark in 1921."

      No, he finished writing the first book in 1921, he started in 1915.

    2. Homeboy

      Re: Crt?

      From my very far distant schooldays, isn't Iron the element with the lowest energy per nucleon (ie total number of protons + neutrons) which is why fusing lower mass elements together releases energy and fission of heavier elements into smaller ones also releases energy? Iron is at the bottom of the U shaped curve of energy per nucleon.

      Trying to go in the opposite direction needs energy to be added to the final nucleus hence supernova, neutron star collisions etc.

      1. Symon Silver badge

        Re: Crt?

        To be technically correct, the best kind of correct, iron-56 is the most stable nucleus.

        Nickel-62 is also interesting.

        Oh yeah, the strontium is in the glass of the CRT to stop the x-rays getting out.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Crt?

          Oh, that Nickel-62 article is just great. "[T]he larger fraction of lighter protons in 56Fe lowers its mean mass-per-nucleon ratio, despite having a slightly higher binding energy [than 62Ni] in a way that has no effect on its binding energy."

          I believe I understand what the author means, but that formulation - "a slightly higher X, in a way that has no effect on its X" - is priceless. I can think of so many applications. "Yes, your argument is slightly more accurate, in a way that has no effect on its accuracy." "Your algorithm is slightly more elegant, in a way that has no effect on its elegance."

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Crt?

      Anything from beyond Iron needs collisions?

      What do you mean by 'collision' in this context? As fusion is the merging of 2 atoms (or stray neutrons) to form a new one, so technically all fusion involves a collision of some sort - whether a high-speed one due to massive energy-imparted velocity or a slow 'squeeze' due to gravity.

      Elements up to iron (26th element) are made in the core of stars as they undergo regular fusion processes to prevent gravity from collapsing the star entirely.

      Supernova's apparently can produce from Oxygen (8th) to Rubidium (37th). Note that this means both fusion and supernovae can produce Oxygen->Iron.

      And as this article indicates, Strontium (38th) and above are produced in neutron-star mergers.

      Note that there can be other sources for some of these, for example, what about a neutron star and a white dwarf merger? Or a neutron star stripping off the outer envelope of a companion main-sequence star, thus leading to new processes in that gas-rich envelope around such a neutron star.

      There several different processes to create new elements via either fission or fusion (s-process, r-process, alpha process), the question becomes, in nature, what natural circumstances occur that create the conditions that will allow the various process to occur. The core of stars is sufficient for the alpha process. Supernovae's are sufficient for the s and r-processes, etc.

      Nice table here that shows the elements and the sources for those elements. This table has been around for a while and doesn't incorporate this new research, so take it with a grain of salt, as a rough guide.

  6. TonyWilk

    An awesome 10th of a gram...

    The YouTube channel PBS Space Time, in The Alchemy of Neutron Star Collisions

    ( )

    summed up the topic thus:

    "Neutron star mergers are likely the dominant source of most elements of atomic masses 44 and up, that includes most of the lead, silver, gold, rare earth elements and the radioactive stuff like uranium and plutonium also a good fraction of the molybdenum and iodine which are essential for your biology.

    In fact, including the non-essential heavy elements your body masses something like 2ppm colliding neutron star material.

    That's only a 10th of a gram or so, but it's a pretty awesome 10th of a gram.

    It was, after all, synthesised on the rim of a black hole before surfing a wave of neutrinos into the nebula that would eventually collapse into our solar system... and those atoms would eventually find themselves part of a lifeform that would figure out the very time and distance of their formation."

    1. Symon Silver badge
    2. chasil

      Re: An awesome 10th of a gram...

      This is incorrect.

      The S-Process follows a completely different pathway, and is mentioned in the article.

      What is discussed in the subject of neutron star collisions is the R-Process.

      Proton capture is another pathway.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: An awesome 10th of a gram...

        It may be incorrect, but the basic idea - that the human body contains a small amount of material created in (subjectively) exotic processes, and that body in turn enables an intellect which can study those processes - is still true, and retains its poetic force.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: An awesome 10th of a gram...

      It's just struck: is that why we don't see any of the highly radioactive/short half life elements on earth? They may be created in colliding neutron stars, but by the time they get here, they're not what they were when they started?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Neutrons are illusary

    "To go further, it requires extreme environments with copious amounts of free neutrons to kickstart something known as “rapid neutron capture,” where atomic nuclei can swallow neutrons at higher rates to create heavier elements beyond iron"

    Not really. You smash the nucleus apart and you get neutrons and protons, and there's some magic connection between the number of each. Smash harder and you get quarks. You might hypothesize that neutrons and protons and quarks form part of the nucleus and are all bound by various forces that somehow magically have the properties needed.... But those forces are impossible, they usually defy geometry (e.g. increasing with distance, then decreasing) and magically disappear at macro scale. So that's not really what a nucleus looks like inside. You're making shrapnel and seeing magic patterns in the shrapnel.

    Resonance model:

    There is one force: electric_H0, it is oscillating at some 'F' frequency. There are two particles +ve and -ve and fuck all else.

    You can quickly realize that light must be a +ve -ve pair, and the force binding it must propagate infinitely fast, otherwise it would leave behind the force! And that mass cannot be real. From this you get an oscillating resonance model, a a concept of time as motion over space and a mechanism where the speed of light, and propagation of electric forces are happening at resonant F, and a whole bunch of harmonic forces (e.g. F/2 is magnetic).

    Light is a F1 oscillation, it moves 1 resonant wavelength per oscillation of resonance.

    Electrons are wrapped in F2s (and its mirror anti-particle F2'). The only planar symmetric donut it is two F1s exchanging positions, it takes 2 resonant oscillations to return to the start position. If it failed to return to the start position (e.g. part of the oscillation pushed into another axis = heat) then it returns to an offset position within the resonant field as it tries to stay in resonance. This is the one and only mechanism of motion, its the same for heat, velocity and light, and the motion inside the nucleus.

    F3 is hydrogens nucleus. It twists as {F2+F1}{+ve}{F2'+F1'}, the F2 inside is binding the +ve, the {F2}{+ve}{F2'} as a group is binding the electron (its a positron with an F1 tail). The F1 is keeping that positron from collapsing into the electron and together the oscillation is in motion over the field, which you call "rest mass" but its actually just oscillating electrical energy, so please keep the same units you're using now.

    F5 is helium

    F7 is Lithium

    F11 is Beryllium nucleaus etc.

    A free proton is {F3}{+ve}{F3'}, a free neutrons is {F3}{F1}{F3} twisted as {F2+F1}{F1}{F2'+F1'}. You cannot have {F2}{F1}{F2'} it collapses as the inner F1 passes the zero point, and you end up with a cloud of F1s'.... aka a photon.

    Now in the nucleus, you can detect 'neutrons' if you splay the nucleus out in say a magnetic field, and then measure the +ve and -ve charges. From this you can see it is made of +ve and -ves, but don't quite understand why.

    Take Helium for example, it has a prime twist repeat oscillation of 5.

    It's main oscillation mode is

    {F2 + {F1 +F2' }}

    +ve +ve

    {F2'+ {F1'+F2}}

    Again the F2 pairs are binding the +ve to form the proton, and the neutron is composed of an F2 from each of the proton bindings! How many neutrons you detect depends on how the F2s are arranged!

    You see how the neutrons are an illusion. You're really probing an oscillating system with an oscillating electric force and its harmonics, and then trying to imagine what that would look like if the force wasn't oscillating! Sure you can smash a nucleus with F1s and form a free neutrons, but that's not how it forms, it forms the same way every F2 twist pair forms, by {F2}{F2'} collapse. Inside the atom is equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. When you smash harder and get an F2, and call it a quark... it's just shrapnel.

    Can I point out a side issue here, the clumping forces.

    You've seen these everywhere, e.g. stick magnets in a bag, shake them up, they organize themselves to be clumped together. It's not just F/2 that clumps, each harmonic clumps.

    From the oscillations, you get the fingerprint of the atom, from that you get the harmonics, from that you get every physical property. So sodium chloride is the sodium nucleus oscillating over the local field of chlorine, which is oscillating over the local field of sodium. The new twist pattern it forms, is a stable twist configuration of the two, hence the molecule salt is formed. If sodium oscillation put chlorine into an unstable twist pattern, then the molecule wouldn't form.

    And these clumping forces don't magically disappear at macro scale. You simply call group them together and call it gravity. Did you think the clumping effect you see everyday somehow disappears at larger scale, to be replaced by yet another magic force? Why? When I put it like that, you see how silly that was!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I assume this blackhole effect has been observed

      Matter interacts with matter strongly.

      Blackholes interact with other black holes strongly.

      But blackholes interact with matter *weakly*.

      I assume this is a known property of black holes? It's because 2 is the only even prime number. It's also why our universe is expanding (and also accelerating with the speed of light increasing, and why the edges should be disappearing).


      In brief:

      A black hole is a 2F universe.

      Heat = motion

      Compress matter, the atoms move faster and faster. This motion is "heat", but its really just motion.

      Those oscillating donuts get 'heat', heat is simply an oscillation component that's causes an oscillation to be further away from resonance. The more the oscillation is out of resonance, the more it oscillates in the field to track the best resonance point. The more wildly matter jitters around in the field.

      Up to a point. After which the motion would reduce and matter would approach the 1F resonance point. At 1F it would have zero energy again. It would be light.

      Those complex nucleus with their complex twist patterns, cannot be at the 1F resonance point, only simply F1 oscillations can be, because all of the oscillation needs to be pushed into the direction of motion.


      Motion is limited to 0 to 1 wavelength per resonant oscillation

      What happens as you compress matter is it flips to 2F resonance. Now it oscillates twice for each oscillation of the matter outside the black hole.

      A black hole is a 2F universe, like ours. It has an event horizon, at the event horizon matter is oscillating at 1F resonance on one side, and 2F resonance on the inside. The edge of our observable universe is the event horizon.

      Blackholes are nested inside of each other.

      Look at the nuclear twist prime patterns in the comment above.

      F/2 magnetic force inside the blackhole is in resonance with the F1 electric field outside the blackhole. There are no other even oscillations, and no other close resonance because 2 is the only even prime number.

      e.g. F41 sodium's nucleus, has an oscillation harmonic F/41, but there is no F/20.5 component outside the black hole to resonate with the F/41 inside.

      Since all the oscillations are prime, and since the only even prime donut is F2, so the only field close to resonance is the Blackhole-Magnetic / Outside-Electric resonance pattern.

      That organisational clumping force only exists at F2 magnetic inside to F1 electric outside. This is why a black hole appears largely decoupled to the matter outside.


      Look at the axis, an electron has a donut in oscillatory 'spinning' like motion around it. Imagine the electric axis as vertical, the electrons F2 donuts horizontal and velocity of electron is moving away from you. Magnetic force would be a left-right-left-right waddle as the electron moves.

      In other words, electric and magnetic are at RIGHT ANGLES to each other.

      Magnetic inside, is resonant with electric outside the black hole.... BUT AT RIGHT ANGLES.

      i.e. the outside matter spinning around the black hole, would be in perfect resonance with the matter inside the blackhole only if the matter inside is moving away or towards the center of the black hole at a velocity corresponding to the outer spin.

      It's the same motion, the same oscillation. Inside the motion is radial, outside it's rotation, but both are the same oscillation, simply the effect of that oscillation on 1F resonant matter outside, vs 2F resonant matter inside.


      Matter moved in from the fringes through the middle of this universe, creating a deep layer of blackholes within blackholes. It continued its journey through the middle and back outwards, as it did, the black holes shrunk. Our expanding universe is therefore the inside of a late phase black hole.

      The more spread out matter is, the 'colder' it is, the less it can hold 2F resonance with respect to the outside universe, the larger the resonant wavelength, the more the event horizon shrinks.

      As it shrinks it eats and shreds complex matter. Shreds?...The only thing that can oscillate at 2F and 1F simultaneously is simply F1 and monopole matter. Anything more complex will be ripped apart. Outside the shrinking black hole is proto matter ejected from inside. Forming a spiral galaxy in the universe outside. New stars near the shrinking center black hole, old stars at the fringes (because they were ejected earlier than the new ones).

      This is where the spiral galaxies are coming from. The black hole at their center isn't drawing in matter, its ejected the spiral as it shrunk.

      We should be losing stars at the fringes of our universe, this loss will accelerate, the more matter flips to 1F of the outside universe, the less the 2F is sustained, the faster the blackhole bubble shrinks. Stars disappear, the edge of our observable universe shrinks.

      If your hubble 'constant' was measured two ways, one with redshift (i.e. light moving towards us nears 1W per oscillation, will always appear to be 1W per oscillation even as W increases, it has a correction to it), and across the axis (e.g. galaxy clumping estimates, that wouldn't have that correction), then don't be surprised if the numbers don't match.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Also note complex photon patterns

      If you're looking for a Thesis topic, there's some other mini things you can test for and prove here too. Find these and you have some big wins.

      So lets correct a misconception:

      Photons are absorbed by electrons, which promote them to higher shells, as the electron falls back it emits a photon again.... correct? No, and it leads to a bunch of things you should be able to observe.


      How the photon is absorbed and emitted and how to prove it.

      A photon is a cloud of F1's clumped together with 1F organizational clumping effects as described above.

      Each element has a set of twist patterns that are valid. The deeper the primes, the further out the electrons are.

      So F3+F7+F17 is actually 10 protons in 3 subshells (2+2+6).

      Add some F1s, it oscillates between states, the less stable, the fewer oscillations it takes to eject the F1s. The more complex the twist state, the higher the primes that form it, the further out the electrons are..... the 'promotion of electrons' is a *side* *effect*, not the absorption!

      The F1s simply cause a higher twist pattern, and the electron is moving with the new field pattern which puts it further away.


      Those photon F1s are close to the 1W per oscillation resonance point. i.e. they are moving one wavelength (W) of resonance with *most* of the oscillation in that 1F motion. The closer they are to moving at 1W per 1F, the closer they are to resonance, the lower the energy, and the lower the EM frequency... until at the limit case they would be oscillating at 1F, and in resonance with the matter of the detector, and at 0Hz EM frequency.

      In other words, all those EM polarization, frequency, circular polarization patterns in EM waves are actually the difference between the F1 oscillation pattern of that photon cloud and the matter that is interacting with it.


      So, notice Neon above is a complex nested oscillation. Any photon cloud it emits also has that complex oscillation pattern in it. Not just simple polarization, and frequency, but second and third order oscillation patterns in that cloud-photon.

      Thesis idea #1, go look for higher order oscillatory patterns in EM waves.

      The higher energy the wave, the further away from resonance, the more of the oscillation can be put into the complex pattern and less into the forward motion.... so you'll find it easier to detect these patterns in Xrays. Conversely as you get closer to resonance (e..g. radio waves) more of the oscillation is the F1 component across resonance and less is in the complex pattern, so it will be far harder to detect those complex patterns, the closer to zero Hz EM freq you get.

      By finding the complex patterns, you're proving that a photon isn't a simple single oscillation because a simple +ve -ve oscillation couldn't support that complex pattern.


      Thesis idea #2.

      Sorry to keep going on about salt, but its what I'm currently trying to make in simulation, since it will help me prove my twist rules.

      Just as sodium reacts with chlorine, and that depends on the oscillation harmonics of those nucleus'. So the *photons* emitted by sodium carry the same pattern which should be absorbed longer with chlorine than with non-reacting chemicals.

      These idea #2 is simple. Find a correlation pattern between chemical reactions of two elements and absorption of photons of element #1 on element #2's nucleus. The stronger the chemical reaction between element X and element Y, the longer the photon from X should be able to be held by nucleus Y before being ejected, because of that complex oscillation pattern. Again you'll have more success detecting this at the high energy end of EM waves.


      I suggested that the electron was oscillating in the resonance field in a repeating pattern. This was observed, and sadly the team claims "quantum teleportation like effect", i.e. claiming that the electron was teleporting its position to a future instance of itself (oh boy).

      Thesis idea #3, find another instance of this, measure it, and don't bottle out. If the electron is returning back to its original position, and the experiment is repeatable, then it could have been started at any point in time.

      i.e. the electron returning to the position it had at t=0 at time t=x, implies that you could have started the experiment at t = -x, and it was also at the same position at t=0, or started the experiment at t=x and it would be there at t=2x if you hadn't interfered in its motion. So its a repeatable motion. Oscillatory.

      i.e. claim the prize and disprove Schrodingers "it moves only when you try to measure it" bollocks.


      Thesis idea #4, define motion.

      It seems obvious doesn't it, that the mechanism of motion of light is some local interaction with matter. Look at its motion through glass, it slows and bends, this is not interactions with individual atoms, because the deeper in, the higher the probability of an interaction, so the bending would be progressive, the deeper into the glass.

      But it isn't progressive, it bends once and that's all. So its interacting with the glass as a whole, not individual atoms in the glass.

      Light only has an EM oscillation, so its interaction with matter must be some oscillating electromagnetic effect. That slowing and bending must be due to some oscillatory electric thing, even if you don't know what or how.

      Oscillatory electric forces are TWO WAY. i.e. at least one mechanism of motion of *matter* must be due to the oscillatory electric effect. Light must be able to move matter too.

      Shine light on a scale, and weigh it, it has weight, so its moving the atoms in the scale. So yes indeed it does. You can observe this.

      So, we're nearly there. Let me tell you up front that there is only one mechanism of motion. It is oscillating electric. There is no 'mass', that's oscillations that wrap around repeating. There is no momentum, that's oscillations in other axis that stop the oscillation wrapping around perfectly, causing a sort of oscillatory waddle.

      So define the waddle. I have it only as a numeric simulation in peasoup models, nothing more. I observe it, I don't have a definition of it. You can define it.


      Thesis idea #5

      Go for the biggy, why 3 dimensions.

      My suspicion is that 1 dimension can only ever be a linear oscillation +- W.

      That a 2 dimensional oscillation can only trace out a 1W sized loop.

      That 3 dimensions is the minimum number of dimensions that you can get translational motion in (i.e. playing off the two non-resonance dimensions to get bigger than W translations).

      Suspecting the cause, and being able to define and prove the cause is the difference between a candle and a flood light. Go be the flood light.

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