For the first time, scientists have detected ripples in the fabric of space and time — known as gravitational waves — from a colliding pair of dead stars called neutron stars.

This is the first time astronomers have witnessed two neutron stars merging, and these new findings may help solve the decades-old mystery of how many of the universe’s heavy elements were created.

Here’s an explainer on why the discovery is so groundbreaking for our understanding of the universe.

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