Where Does Gold Come From?
The question many civilizations have been asking for centuries is “Where does gold come from?”.
I continue to be fascinated by the “discoveries” of our scientist regarding how the universe developed and specifically, how the elements were created. Of course, since no one has ever witnessed this creation first hand or close up (except in laboratories), all this remains, theory.
Of course being a prospector, one is always looking for gold and other precious heavy metals and where they reside on this planet. Science tells us that most of the gold on our planet is deep within the Earth’s core and out of reach to retrieve. They tell us because gold and other heavy metals are so heavy – they will never be retrievable because of the great depths and temperatures in which they reside. The Earth is approximately 8,000 miles in diameter (radius according to Wikipedia is 3,958.8 miles). So if all the “heavies” are within the outer (3,000 downward to 800 miles) and inner core (800 to 0 miles) that’s still 1,000 miles to dig. The Earth’s outer crust is about 21 miles thick and the deepest man has drilled is about 5 miles. That leaves a way to go. So, chances are, with today’s technologies, we’re not going to get anywhere close.
The crust has minerals that were deposited from meteors from all over the universe. So where does gold come from along with other heavy minerals (creation and location)? Again, science tells us that our sun is not capable of creating heavy metals. At most, it may get to iron, but once a sun the size of ours gets to that element, the thermonuclear reaction shuts down (because at the element iron, it takes tremendous amounts of “energy” and matter to go further). Science says that the heaviest elements (iron and all other metals beyond iron in the periodic table) were created by supernovae. At this level, they don’t “compress” elements, but explode sending all matter outward at tremendous velocities and generating extreme temperatures (millions, billions and possibly even trillions of degrees). Scientists say that a nova the size of our sun when depleted, will generally “throw off” hydrogen or helium for the most part. They indicate that a sun could go thru this process numerous times until it’s just a white dwarf (nuclear core), that would eventually cool. On the other hand supernovae are a one shot deal, when they explode there’s nothing remaining of it – it has been broadcast to the universe, spreading all the elements that it created or in the process of creating (via the process of exploding and generating extreme heat and pressures) to create the heavy metals we’re looking for (gold, silver and the rest of the heavy metals list).
A golden piece of the sky in our hands
So, why do we care about this – probably most could care less, but to me it’s as fascinating as finding the minerals, because of what the “universe” had to go thru to make it. We know we’re made from the “stars” and this is exactly true for gold too – all elements heavier that helium are “star stuff”. So the next time you find the yellow metal in your sluice or gold pan, just think about what it took to create it.
Now the next question you could ask yourself is – how old is that piece of gold? Discounting the age of the earth (4.5 billion years), that shining piece of metal could be billions of years older than the earth, since most scientists agree that the universe is over 14 billion years.
They also tell us that stars were being created less than a million years after the big bang but elements heavier than helium had to be manufactured in stars first to be able to produce planets, so give or take a few billion years.
Our sun is small in comparison (approximately 1 million miles in diameter) to the really big and super “huge” suns in the universe. The only given with suns, generally the bigger they are the more mass they have, so the faster they burn thru their hydrogen and/or helium (the nuclear reaction is the process of converting one element into the next element and giving off light/heat in the process). Our sun is approximately 5 billion years old and they estimate that it has another 5 billion years left. The supersized suns don’t have longevity – they can burn out in as little as five million years.
Again, why is all of this important? We have maybe a 100 years on earth before we’re “recycled”, so how does something that’s millions or billions of years old have any bearing on us? It doesn’t, but to me it’s the fascinating part of prospecting, knowing what it took to create it.
If you have theories or other thoughts, feel free to share them.
About The Author
I’m Dave Chiara, and it was only a few years ago that I picked up a gold pan and couldn’t put it down. I happily spent my weekends dredging, processing, panning, and sluicing. I can’t imagine a better way to spend your free time – out in nature with friends and family, and coming home with real gold!