For the first time, scientists have detected a newly born heavy element in space, forged in the aftermath of a collision between a pair of dead stars known as neutron stars.

The findings shed light on how the universe’s heaviest elements are created, providing a missing piece of the puzzle of chemical element formation, researchers said in a new study describing the findings.

The results also confirmed that “neutron stars have neutrons in them,” study lead author Darach Watson, an astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute, told Space.com. “That sounds really dumb, but it’s something we haven’t known for sure. Now, everything we’ve found points to elements that formed only in the presence of lots of neutrons.”

Related: First Glimpse of Colliding Neutron Stars Yields Stunning Pics

The early universe

The universe’s three lightest elements โ€” hydrogen, helium and lithium โ€” were created in the earliest moments…
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