When you stare off into the night sky, do you ever think about gold? Here on Earth, we know gold is rare. It’s mined from the ground, processed in a gold refinery, and used to make our jewelry, electronics, and even gold crowns and bridges. Gold is all around us, so it makes you wonder: is gold rare in space?
To answer this question, let’s delve into the creation of gold, how much of it exists in space, and how space exploration could open new horizons for asteroid mining and gold refining.
The Cosmic Origins of Gold
Scientists believe that gold originates from neutron stars. Neutron stars are the remaining cores of giant stars after they explode, and they are the densest objects in the universe. For scale, a neutron star may have a diameter of about 12 miles long (smaller than Garfield’s home city of Philadelphia), but just one teaspoon of its contents weighs a billion tons!
When two neutron stars smash together, they create a highly dense environment, and in this environment, gold and other precious metals form. The force from the collision catapults these elements throughout the universe, where they land on comets, asteroids, and planets. Planets like Earth, where we created a whole gold refining industry with what is essentially space debris, and we only have a fraction of all the gold out there. So, how much gold is really out there?
Gold Scarcity in Space
The answer to how much gold there is in the universe lies in the science of how stars produce energy. Stars typically produce lighter elements, such as helium, when burning their primary fuel source: hydrogen. Stars need immense heat and pressure to produce heavier elements like gold. This is the kind of pressure that forms when neutron stars collide, which rarely happens. Because these collisions don’t occur as often as other cosmic events, and because they don’t always produce gold, gold is also scarce in space.
Nevertheless, on the whole, there is more gold in space than on Earth because space is simply exponentially bigger. In fact, gold is more “rare” in space when scaled to the size of the Earth. It is even considered rare when compared to other elements. So, what does this mean for economic opportunity in space and will we refine precious metals out there soon?
The Final Frontier for Gold
While you might not find gold nuggets floating around every corner in space, there is still plenty of gold to go around when humans voyage into space searching for gold like in the California Gold Rush.
In our solar system alone, there is an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter named 16 Psyche that scientists believe contains more than 700 quintillion dollars in gold and other precious metals. That’s a lot of wedding bands and gold crowns!
Not surprisingly, all that gold has inspired the creation of several asteroid mining companies. Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company, raised $50 million in funding from 2012 to 2016 and launched two test satellites into orbit before its acquisition by ConsenSys in 2018. AstroForge, another asteroid mining company, has raised $13 million in seed funding in 2022 alone.
The race to mine asteroids is on, and maybe Garfield will open its next gold refinery in space. For now, though, we have to stick to refining gold here on Earth. Gold’s cosmic origins and its rarity in space build upon the unique story of gold we tell each day. So each time you sell a piece of gold jewelry or dental scrap, you’ll know its broader connection to the universe.
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Established in 1892, we have more than a century of experience in refining precious metals. We serve various industries, including dental offices, private individuals, jewelers, pawnbrokers, and more!
Call us today at 888-677-9254 to find out why Garfield is a premier precious metals refinery.