Scientists Just Witnessed the Birth of a Heavy Element in Space

Scientists Just Witnessed the Birth of a Heavy Element in Space


We have a pretty good understanding of how
a lot of elements in the periodic table formed. Hydrogen, Helium and Lithium, the three lightest
elements, formed shortly after the big bang. Heavier elements, up to Iron, were forged billions
of years later in the hearts of stars. But the origin of the naturally occurring
elements heavier than iron is less certain. That was until October of 2019, when researchers
analyzing data from a neutron star collision announced they were certain how about half
of those heavier elements form. They witnessed something called the rapid
neutron capture process, or r-process, which was first proposed about 60 years ago. It was thought to occur only in extreme environments
where atoms were bombarded with huge numbers of neutrons. This allows the atom’s nucleus to capture
neutrons quicker than it can decay, forming a heavier element. But we couldn’t confirm where in the universe
would bombard elements with enough neutrons to make the r-process possible. Now I realize I may have spoiled the big reveal
here when I said that scientists figured it out after watching neutron stars collide. After all, where are you going to find more
NEUTRONS than when two NEUTRON stars crash into each other? Aside from that episode where Jimmy Neutron cloned himself a whole bunch. But the truth is scientists weren’t certain
neutron stars had, um, neutrons in them. We were pretty sure that’s what’s left
over after massive stars go supernova and their surviving cores are dense enough to
crush protons and electrons together yet not dense enough to further implode and become
a black hole. But we weren’t 100% sure. Then, in 2017, scientists caught a break. Gravitational wave detectors LIGO and Virgo
sensed waves coming from somewhere in the southern sky. About two seconds later, two instruments detected
a gamma ray burst from the same area. These phenomena together tipped off scientists
that a neutron star merger and it’s predicted explosive aftermath called a kilonova was
likely occurring. Telescopes scrambled to find the source, until
they spotted a new point of light about 130 million light years away. One instrument in particular, the European
Southern Observatory’s X-Shooter, studied the kilonova for days, recording its spectrum
from ultraviolet to the near infrared. By analyzing the spectrum, scientists could
look for the distinct fingerprint elements leave as they absorb parts of the spectrum. But at first the heavier elements weren’t
easy to suss out, because their spectrums can create complex blends of tens of millions
of spectral lines, making them hard to tell apart. It wasn’t until scientists reexamined the
data that they spotted a distinct line at the boundary of visible light and infrared. This 810 nm spectroscopic feature told the
scientists they witnessed the creation of the heavy element strontium through rapid
neutron capture. What’s surprising about spotting strontium
is it’s actually one of the lighter of the heavy elements formed by the r-process. In order for it to occur, neutrinos have to
bombard neutrons to break them down into protons and electrons. Strontium’s discovery told astronomers that
a wide range of heavy elements form during kilonovae, from the lighter to the very heaviest. The discovery of strontium hiding among the
kilonova’s spectrum filled in several gaps in our knowledge. It confirms the r-process takes place when
neutron stars merge, and shows conclusively that neutron stars in fact contain neutrons. Not a bad day’s work, but the science is
never finished. Next the researchers will look to expand their
knowledge of the spectral lines of heavier elements, hoping to conclusively identify
more products of the neutron star collision. In case you were wondering, there is also
a slow neutron capture process, or s-process, which is thought to occur in the outer layers
of old stars and is responsible for the other half of heavy elements.If you like our Elements
episodes you may also enjoy our Focal Point series. Check out this episode on a clock that could
redefine time. Also, be sure to subscribe to Seeker, and don’t forget to keep coming back for more science content in your day. I’ll see you next time!

100 thoughts on “Scientists Just Witnessed the Birth of a Heavy Element in Space

  • November 6, 2019 at 3:04 pm
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    Hi Seekers! Thanks for watching–if you liked this episode of Elements and want more on neutron stars, heavy elements, and advancing the boundaries of the periodic table, be sure to check out Focal Point's episode on Sunday!

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 4:32 pm
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    PBS Space Time covered this 5 months ago and did a much better job.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 4:34 pm
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    Can we just back up a bit to admire the fact that the first thing detected from this collision was GRAVITATIONAL WAVES.
    We have gotten to the point where we can use ripples in spacetime itself to detect and locate events like this.

    That is just mind blowing.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 4:37 pm
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    I hope it is gold, platinum, diamond …. because all of these are costly and i need these more

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 4:41 pm
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    Damn it, I miss Trace.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 4:50 pm
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    Occurring that event took place 130 million years ago .

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:03 pm
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    My dumb ass thought they discovered a new heavy metal

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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    Hey Linus

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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    BUT… Did we miss the “Gender Reveal” party? 👽

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:16 pm
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    Nerd

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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    When you clicked because you were like

    “Hmm, that seems cool.”

    But didn’t understand a word

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:29 pm
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    Heavy metal band in space.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:32 pm
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    Measuring nanometers from lightyears away=heavy elements forming….yeah and there's a whole circus on the head of this pin…can you see it?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:33 pm
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    the safire project has made heavy elements

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:36 pm
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    this guy resembles Sid from Ice Age

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:48 pm
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    Making Jimmy Neutron jokes in 2019… we’ve peaked.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:52 pm
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    has this guy ever heard of a hair brush or comb?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 5:55 pm
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    Stront is "shit" in dutch

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:05 pm
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    That star formed 352 million years a go but we didn’t figure out nothing about until now , stars are amazing you basically look at the past and I love it .

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:08 pm
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    "formed shortly after the big bang…" Umm since when we accepted big bang theory as solid proof of what happened? Did some one scientifically observed a few times its to be true? Or is this channel a propaganda of a specific view? Do you have a scientific proof those were the FIRST elements? Have you scientifically observed it a few good times to say its true? You have time machine? What I cannot stand is when materialists pushing their agenda of how world was created twisting my beloved science methods and science in general. I hope one day we will get rid of religious dogmas and materialistic dogmas all together and will use science constructively – long way to wait I assume. You know what was the "first element" possibly created? Energy waves. Because everything begins as energy.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:19 pm
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    I have that shirt

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:22 pm
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    So how much money will someone give me for an ounce of Sr

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:24 pm
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    It appears that the speaker's hair absorbed a lot of neutrons.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:33 pm
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    It is not heavy, it is a question of good common sense good communication, NADA PERSONAL, here is a proof that why there is a need of open commerce betweeb south America Europe and USA, it is a sociological, a Freuds sicological issue, this comes when things socially are not balanced, that is why there is the need of a Western Tradition, Liberal and a strong cultural identity specially for the common sense of security, BUY AN ARGENTINE FOR WHAT IT IS VALUE AND SELL IT FOR WHAT IT SAYS IT IS VALID, This also goes for you, it's worldwide, NOTHING PERSONAL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB6_e2uA7rE&fbclid=IwAR2thOLeF0ANFjFWq2ogUS_WNVoXXayW3dxa9uvlXL79jrVxPK2FaIfea18

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:33 pm
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    Who witnessed my birth?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:33 pm
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    Spectral analysis- sounds fancy. In reality just watching a star twinkle from red to blue and so forth from over 40 trillion kms away (closest star) and we learn all this… Really? Put a white coat on and you can make people believe anything @[email protected]

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:36 pm
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    Upside down, just to put common sense https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khKG32CozTw&t=26s&fbclid=IwAR02iTTIDGhLDkPOVMtxhTMu8iqEbunqrdGT6dE1h3r_Y36FLbpuvt7B0qY

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:40 pm
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    You need to eat to continue to be on seeker

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:48 pm
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    How cool is it that; the universe feels gravitational waves immediately before getting hit with light speed gamma waves from two colliding Neutron Stars

    There is so much we don’t know about our universe.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 6:50 pm
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    It’s weird to think how long ago that collision must have occurred and now we finally got to see it

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:02 pm
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    The big Bang is it a vague erroneous observation

    Well defined spiral Galaxys emit singularities from the core that's our birth that's our big Bang

    There was initial big Bang but will never ever be able to understand or prove it

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:02 pm
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    Liberalism round the world must understand that there is a big need for commerce to be secure and mantain happyness in the society, that comes with a true love to a strong Western Tradition identity, but on the other hand if you close everything with the lie of Nationalisms that brought the second world war, this is the result, nationalism in Argentina in the extremes for the last 70 years, brought in a big way, exactly this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjvfIJstWeg

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:05 pm
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    Does anyone else wonder if this guy intentionally messes up his hair before his videos? Lol.

    He's so indie… haha

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:07 pm
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    Yay Jimmy Neutron reference!

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:23 pm
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    What happened to Trace?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:33 pm
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    If it took billions of years for the universe to make iron? Then is the universe still makeing new elements?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:34 pm
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    If it took billions of years for the universe to make iron? Then is the universe still makeing new elements?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:35 pm
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    Who else liked this video because he said, suss out?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:40 pm
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    This incredible and happy Artist, without the need to stop being fully the himself, without sacrificing his mission, his happiness, is clearly informing you, giving a message to politicians and some corrupt corporations, that it is necessary to stop manipulating and administering from corrupt politics, the administration of the emergency in addictions, especially in Argentina, product of the lie of 70 years of being one of the most closed economies on the planet, and on the other hand, the liberals, must stop administering drugs to the Immigrants, through corrupt corporations, it is necessary a shopkeeper with a strong cultural identity to give a complete sustainability and get out of the excesses that in the antiquity ended with the Second World War https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLf9s0RolH0&t=52s

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:44 pm
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    Corrupt corporations and politicians, adminstrate adictions, to back and white PELADOS, that is the way the Drug Trafficking works in the world, and this can end up bringing war if people don't realize and try to do something at least to balance things https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_vXgzKKqb4&t=5s

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:45 pm
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    please seeker use some mild background colours. when I look at night It's hurting my eyes….

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:48 pm
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    AWSOME

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 7:56 pm
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    Holy moly, we just discovered that neutron stars contain neutrons. Whoda thunk?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 8:18 pm
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    Funny they know what a so called neutron star makes when haven't proved they even exist.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 8:18 pm
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    Sure they did…..

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 8:31 pm
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    Element 115!

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 8:31 pm
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    I swear I saw Stellaris footage in this video…LOL….this is what happens when you play a thousand year run then watch YT.😂

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 8:40 pm
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    So it happened 130M light years ago 🤦‍♂️

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 8:46 pm
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    Your hair pulled a photo bomb.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:04 pm
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    man, if only there was a way to check your hair before recording… like some sort of reflective surface. maybe in the future?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:04 pm
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    The gravitational wave occurred HOURS before the photon flash! Don't both travel at c? What does this delay tell us?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:12 pm
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    Which Planet are you from?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:13 pm
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    Watching this makes me realise that I’m on the spectrum

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:13 pm
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    All I see is CGI. Show actual proof.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:13 pm
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    Damn I love this nerd 🤯

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:14 pm
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    Ok, how can I afford a house and live before my 30?

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:18 pm
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    This technology can finance the space race and find resources to implement renewable energy, the video game industry is more important than Hollywood and TV together, and that there is no intellect in that industry, If Seeker, Nasa and SpaceX can give it momentum , you will find a great potential to finance your projects with the WebGl, in addition this can give a big bang to the digital world and create masive online work where every person in the world can find quality job, this is for all humanity, massive online jobs for everyone, and extremly fun too https://threejs.org/examples/css3d_periodictable.html

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:21 pm
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    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2JzIUIHIhc&fbclid=IwAR3zQOSOBV12C-TFd4K4Xy5CVK5KCbW_E_s7Mv162ul1rzfFZLgjMx2snP4

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:25 pm
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    What if they find 115? 👀

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:26 pm
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    If everything happen long before humans. Then humans or anything GOT nothing to do with all that beautiful work of the ??

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:29 pm
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    If we know so much and know soo good then whay are we doing so bad ??

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:32 pm
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    Witness my heavy fart! #teamtrees

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:34 pm
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    Nah, you are soooooo backwards in your thinking that you incorrectly assume that you have the answer. Regurgitating the mistakes of those mathmagicians of the past and trying to use mythmatics to explain natural phenomena is akin to replicate a structure from an inferior material and selling it to the pubic as the real thing. What science is lacking is essence, you can rename The Aetheric Fluid and call it Dark matter or Dark energy or zero point energy but you cannot mathematically engineer it away.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:34 pm
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    "R-process" sounds like the ideal blend of scientific and vague that would make it perfect for being some weird thing sought out by the antagonists in a Pokemon game

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:49 pm
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    That bed head hair damn

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:53 pm
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    We learned something new by analyzing an event that occurred approximately 120million years ago… kind of fascinating… 🤓

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 9:55 pm
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    LOL @ BIG BANG THEORY.
    www.varchive.org
    EINSTEIN LIED TO YOU,… AND TOLD YOU THE LIE.
    NEUTRONS CANNOT BE CONDENSED ATOMICALLY.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 10:20 pm
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    Conclusive proof that neutron stars are made of neutrons 💫

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 10:48 pm
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    can i stop getting beauty product ads

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 10:51 pm
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    I wonder what else cool stuff we'll see in our lifetime. This world is changing faster than ever, new discoveries are made almost every day.

    We live in an era like none other

    Makes me goddamn proud! 💎

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 10:53 pm
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    I love how they're claiming the history of these elements that they made up are apparently facts. I believe in science, but people have to realize that a lot of these are still technically theories. The history of the elements are one of them. We weren't around during the creation of life, so how can we claim we know the birth of any element. It's just like archeology. But just like archeology, science is is always finding new information. Some information may even reverse these facts we claim to have. Archeology is always finding more information that shows a sophisticated civilization existed before our own. That's huge, the whole cave man idea is most likely completely wrong. If that's the case, then that could include most of our scientific "achievements". So these channels, shows, movies that claim something is fact really need to rephrase what their saying.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2019 at 10:58 pm
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    If a neutron star collision can produce so many different heavy elements at the same time,then what is the likely origin of the presumed 'asteroid' that hit earth 65 million years ago at Chicxulub,Mexico.? Pretty much all the iridium on Earth was 'delivered' in that single impact,leaving behind a clear geological clay deposit around the entire planet,so how is it possible that we only got hit with iridium on one occasion?

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 12:12 am
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    We already know the tale of heavier elements being born in a supernova. It's called a THEORY.
    You have to be very religious to believe it without any evidence or tests to prove it.
    Evolution is a religion, not science.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 12:15 am
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    Dammn. If they're heavy at birth, guess how fat their mama must be! Hah!

    "They were conceived with 2 stars banging"

    … … You space people are no fun.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 12:16 am
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    This collision happened 130 million years ago and scientists are finding out about this now 😒

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 1:06 am
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    Nice bed head lol

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 1:11 am
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    What idiot is giving this video a thumbs down?

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 1:27 am
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    Damn dude you about to land 1 million views fix your hair, eat a sandwich too while your at it lol

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 1:28 am
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    I thought the title said "Heavy elephant". I was gonna comment "who's launching pregnant elephants into space!?"

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 1:37 am
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    This is in line with what the guy on rogan saying about element 115 occurring naturally. Stay up.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 1:45 am
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    I thought they were going to say the birth of a heavy element has just been created that could allow us to fold space and time….. Maybe I am doing some wishful thinking here.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 2:00 am
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    So neutrons contain neutrons holla

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 2:07 am
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    You sound like linus tech tips

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 2:21 am
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    Ads getting to long, unsubscribed.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 2:33 am
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    I feel like I don’t understand anything when you guys talk but yet I continues to listen because it makes me feel like I’m absorbing some knowledge

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 3:17 am
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    1:12 imagine how awkward it'd be if neutron stars were actually proton stars

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 3:34 am
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    Black holes are wave length converts. They convert wave length in elements that is how we got hydrogen. By compressing wave length to a subatomic level you will get a vibration that creates energy forming a formless subatomic particle, when you get enough of these subatomic particles that are being compress it will create particles that will form a proton and electrons and, antimatter. I’m still not sure how the atom forms but does, it’s something about neutron that I can not get my head around, I think it something to do with the forming of antimatter. And by the way light is not constant when you take in count for Albert Einstein concepts of relativity.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 3:38 am
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    New and amazing space discoveries are happening at ever increasing rate. We may very well be able to answer many questions that have beheld us for millenia in our lifetime. Also, great Jimmy Neutron reference, Julian! ⚛️⚛️

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 3:55 am
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    Hmm very interesting 🤔🤔😀👍

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 3:58 am
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    Check (Emir-Stein Center)

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 4:06 am
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    Thank you so much for shifting the audio earlier than the video track so that my Bluetooth speakers match up with your mouth. Not sure if anyone noticed, but nice video as always

    Now carry on with your lives

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 5:34 am
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    Yeah right kid, God did it.

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 5:58 am
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    The gods of destruction are putting in work

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 5:58 am
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    Looks like they couldn't handle the neutron style!

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 6:37 am
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    Presenter : nothing, nothing at all.

    Hairbrush: am I a joke to you?

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 6:40 am
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    So if it happened 130 million light years away and the light took 130 million years to get to earth, that means it happened 130 million years ago, dang, that's old news then I guess

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 6:50 am
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    Bullshite! Space is fake, just like gravity, it's all magic!. No proof, not real. The truth is, you are either a fool to 'believe' in magic, or you are part of the problem and karma will kick you in the ass. This vid is based upon CGI, what a sad joke!

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 7:15 am
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    This is the reason why i don't trust youtube makers and neither Wikipedia

    Reply
  • November 7, 2019 at 7:22 am
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    Lol, but your hair though?

    Reply

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