"Such trends are predicted by models that take into account the diffusion of elements in a star", said Andreas Korn, lead-author of the paper reporting the results in this week's issue of the journal Nature [1,2]. "But an observational confirmation was lacking. That is, until now."
Lithium is one of the very few elements to have been produced in the Big Bang. Once astronomers know the amount of ordinary matter present in the Universe , it is rather straightforward to derive how much lithium was created in the early Universe. Lithium can also be measured in the oldest, metal-poor stars, which formed from matter similar to the primordial material. But the cosmologically predicted value is too high to reconcile with the measurements made in the stars. Something is wrong, but what?
Diffusive processes altering the relative abundances of elements in stars are well known to play a role in certain classes of stars. Under the force of gravity, heavy elements will tend to sink out of visibility into the star over the course of billions of years. "The effects of diffusion are expected to be more pronounced in old, very metal-poor stars", said Korn. "Given their greater age, diffusion has had more time to produce sizeable effects than in younger stars like the Sun."
The astronomers thus set up an observational campaign to test these model predictions, studying a variety of stars in different stages of evolution in the metal-poor globular cluster NGC 6397. Globular clusters  are useful laboratories in this respect, as all the stars they contain have identical age and initial chemical composition. The diffusion effects are predicted to vary with evolutionary stage. Therefore, measured atmospheric abundance trends with evolutionary stage are a signature of diffusion.
Eighteen stars were observed for between 2 and 12 hours with the multi-object spectrograph FLAMES-UVES on ESO's Very Large Telescope. The FLAMES spectrograph is ideally suited as it allows astronomers to obtain spectra of many stars at a time. Even in a nearby globular cluster like NGC 6397, the unevolved stars are very faint and require rather long exposure times.
The observations clearly show systematic abundance trends along the evolutionary sequence of NGC 6397, as predicted by diffusion models with extra mixing. Thus, the abundances measured in the atmospheres of old stars are not, strictly speaking, representative of the gas the stars originally formed from.
"Once this effect is corrected for, the abundance of lithium measured in old, unevolved stars agrees with the cosmologically predicted value", said Korn. "The cosmological lithium discrepancy is thus largely removed."
"The ball is now in the camp of the theoreticians," he added. "They have to identify the physical mechanism that is at the origin of the extra mixing."
 "A probable stellar solution to the cosmological lithium discrepancy", by A.J. Korn et al.
 The team is composed of Andreas Korn, Paul Barklem, Remo Collet, Nikolai Piskunov, and Bengt Gustafsson (Uppsala University, Sweden), Frank Grundahl (University of Århus, Denmark), Olivier Richard (Université Montpellier II, France), and Lyudmila Mashonkina (Russian Academy of Science, Russia).
 High-precision measurements of the matter content of the Universe were made in recent years by studying the cosmic microwave background.
 Globular clusters are large aggregates of stars; over 100 are known in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The largest contain millions of stars. They are some of the oldest objects observed in the Universe and were presumably formed at about the same time as the Milky Way Galaxy, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
Henri Boffin | alfa
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences