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The study reveals the secret life of lithium in sun-like stars

A study reveals the secret life of lithium in sun-like stars: created not only destroyed

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the stars at various stages of their lives, from young hot stars to colder red giants. Our study focused on the lithium content of the red giant stars Credit: NASA, ESA and T. Brown (STScI)

Lithium is becoming common in our daily lives. It is the key ingredient in the batteries of our cell phones and electric vehicles, but have you ever wondered where it comes from?

A new study conducted by Prof. Zhao Gang and Dr. Yerra Bharat Kumar of the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) provides a new understanding of how lithium is produced and how it is destroyed.

The study was published in Astronomy of nature on July 6.

The researchers studied the lithium content of hundreds of thousands of Sun-like stars to understand how this element changes over time in the stars.

“Lithium is a rather special element,”

; said Dr. Yerra Bharat Kumar, first author of the study. “Our study challenges the idea that stars like the Sun destroy lithium only through their lives.”

“Our observations show that they actually create it later in their life after they swell to become red giants. This means that the Sun itself will also produce lithium in the future,” he said.

Lithium is one of the three elements produced in the Big Bang. It is destroyed very easily inside the stars where it is too hot to survive, therefore the lithium content generally decreases with the aging of the stars.

Since lithium is such a sensitive element, it is very useful for understanding the stars. It acts as a tracer for what’s going on inside the stars.

To better understand this sensitive element, the researchers used data from a huge Chinese stellar spectroscopic survey based on the large-area multi-object optical fiber spectroscopy of the sky (LAMOST). The survey is currently building a ten million star spectra database.

This study also used data from the Australian stellar survey known as GALAH.

“By looking at the starlight, we can determine what the stars are made of,” said Dr. Yerra Bharat Kumar. “The models show that our current theories about how stars evolve do not predict this lithium production at all. Therefore, the study created a tension between observations and theory.”

“Our findings will help us better understand and model Sun-like stars,” said Prof. Zhao Gang, the corresponding author of this study.

“Since the newly created lithium will end up being blown away by the star in stellar winds, it will also help us understand how these stars contribute to the lithium content of our Galaxy and to planets like Earth,” said Prof. Zhao.

Astronomers discover the galaxy’s richest lithium giant with LAMOST

More information:
Yerra Bharat Kumar et al, Discovery of ubiquitous lithium production in low mass stars, Astronomy of nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41550-020-1139-7

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Chinese Academy of Sciences

Study reveals lithium’s secret life in sun-like stars (2020, July 6)
recovered on July 7, 2020
from https://phys.org/news/2020-07-reveals-secret-life-lithium-sun-like.html

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