We all seem to enjoy it when massive versions of natural things are discovered, like diamonds the size of three hamsters tied together. Now, for your delectation, we have a rather sizable gold nugget, fished from the waters of Scotland, for you to gaze upon.
Although this was found two years ago, the discovery has only just been reported, allowing the press to tell the tale of the 85.7-gram (3.02-ounce) chunk of gold, named the Douglas Nugget. It seems that it was sniped by an as-of-yet unnamed person from the riverbed, wherein a snorkel is used to suck it up.
Mr D Nugget is certainly a rarity, and at present, no set price has been put on it. As reported by the Guardian, one Leon Kirk, a gold panning expert, suggests that it is worth at least $65,650, but that a wealthy human could very well pay plenty more for it. Either way, this shiny blob is suspected to be the largest of its kind found in Britain in the last half-millennium.
Gold, by the way, has been on quite the journey, large nugget or not. Although the proportions are still somewhat in debate, elemental gold can only form under the most extreme conditions in the cosmos: the formation of a supernova at the end of a heavy star’s life or the collisions between super-dense neutron stars.
The tiny amount that’s forged in those brief nanoseconds gets thrown across space, and, ultimately, some of it ends up in the clouds of gas and dust spinning around another star. As the star system begins to take shape, the gold falls into a variety of gravitational wells.
Larger and larger protoplanetary clumps latch on together, and eventually you have a baby terrestrial planet. The extreme pressure and the trapped radiogenic materials heat up the insides, and chemicals and compounds segregate or attach to each other, depending on their affinities.
Gold exists in very small quantities in the crust. Although it can form compounds, it’s so unreactive that it normally remains in the elemental form. It’s often molten at great depths, but some of it is able to cool and crystalize out in a solid form if it’s transported upwards.
Much of the time, it’s found in smaller grains within rocks, and within hydrothermal veins that course through them, frozen out from once-superheated fluids. When it is, chemical processes are used to separate it from the ore.
Sometimes, though, geological processes push gold-rich rocks high enough to the surface that they break away from their host rock and tumble into a river for us to find, billions of years after it first formed in the heart of a terrific stellar collision.