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Last month, astronomers wowed the world when they announced that they had seen two neutron stars merge, apparently creating heavy elements such as gold and platinum and spewing them into space. Nuclear physicists at Michigan State University are building an atom smasher, the $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, that could decipher exactly how those elements were forged in the inferno.

Kate Jones, an experimental nuclear physicist at UT, said to Science Magazine about the work: “The moment they could, they ran with this project, it’s very impressive when you look down in the basement and see all the kit they’ve got.”

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