First detection of lithium from an exploding star

July 29, 2015, ESO
This image from the New Technology Telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory shows Nova Centauri 2013 in July 2015 as the brightest star in the centre of the picture. This was more than eighteen months after the initial explosive outburst. This nova was the first in which evidence of lithium has been found. Credit: ESO

The chemical element lithium has been found for the first time in material ejected by a nova. Observations of Nova Centauri 2013 made using telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory, and near Santiago in Chile, help to explain the mystery of why many young stars seem to have more of this chemical element than expected. This new finding fills in a long-missing piece in the puzzle representing our galaxy's chemical evolution, and is a big step forward for astronomers trying to understand the amounts of different chemical elements in stars in the Milky Way.

The light chemical element lithium is one of the few elements that is predicted to have been created by the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago. But understanding the amounts of lithium observed in around us today in the Universe has given astronomers headaches. Older stars have less lithium than expected, and some younger ones up to ten times more.

Since the 1970s, astronomers have speculated that much of the extra lithium found in may have come from novae - stellar explosions that expel material into the space between the stars, where it contributes to the material that builds the next stellar generation. But careful study of several novae has yielded no clear result up to now.

A team led by Luca Izzo (Sapienza University of Rome, and ICRANet, Pescara, Italy) has now used the FEROS instrument on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory, as well the PUCHEROS spectrograph on the ESO 0.5-metre telescope at the Observatory of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile in Santa Martina near Santiago, to study the nova Nova Centauri 2013 (V1369 Centauri). This star exploded in the southern skies close to the bright star Beta Centauri in December 2013 and was the brightest nova so far this century - easily visible to the naked eye.

The very detailed new data revealed the clear signature of lithium being expelled at two million kilometres per hour from the nova. This is the first detection of the element ejected from a nova system to date.

Co-author Massimo Della Valle (INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, Naples, and ICRANet, Pescara, Italy) explains the significance of this finding: "It is a very important step forward. If we imagine the history of the chemical evolution of the Milky Way as a big jigsaw, then lithium from novae was one of the most important and puzzling missing pieces. In addition, any model of the Big Bang can be questioned until the lithium conundrum is understood."

The mass of ejected lithium in Nova Centauri 2013 is estimated to be tiny (less than a billionth of the mass of the Sun), but, as there have been many billions of novae in the history of the Milky Way, this is enough to explain the observed and unexpectedly large amounts of lithium in our galaxy.

Authors Luca Pasquini (ESO, Garching, Germany) and Massimo Della Valle have been looking for evidence of in novae for more than a quarter of a century. This is the satisfying conclusion to a long search for them. And for the younger lead scientist there is a different kind of thrill:

"It is very exciting," says Luca Izzo, "to find something that was predicted before I was born and then first observed on my birthday in 2013!"

Explore further: Classical nova explosions are major lithium factories in the universe

More information: This research was presented in a paper entitled "Early optical spectra of Nova V1369 Cen show presence of lithium", by L. Izzo et al., published online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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11 comments

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Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
3.5 / 5 (8) Jul 29, 2015
It is a bad day for 'alternative' cosmologies when all the deficit of the consensus theory is to predict a single element...
Bigbangcon
1.4 / 5 (9) Jul 29, 2015
This finding is one more nail on the coffin of much touted Big Bang theory. H, He and Li were supposed to be the only primary elements formed at the first instances of the Big Bang! Fusion reaction in the stars produces only He and no Li?

The universe is infinite and eternal, mediated by quantum dynamical and dialectical chance and an iron necessity that is inherent in chance.

http://redshift.v...2MAL.pdf

http://www.amazon...40414445
carlo_piantini
4.3 / 5 (4) Jul 29, 2015
As someone interested in alternative cosmologies, can't say I agree with you two about the importance of this discovery. In fact, it's just the opposite.

The lithium deficiency in older stars, and the opposite lithium abundance in younger stars, was an issue for the BB model - one that *arguably* still exists, depending on how legitimately this observation can be extrapolated to explain away the issue.

But the discovery of lithium being ejected from novae is pretty logically *support* for the hypothetical explanation. This isn't a nail in any coffin...
barakn
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 29, 2015
Fusion reaction in the stars produces only He and no Li?

If you look at the cross section of Li/P reactions, you'll find that it is very high at the temperatures found in stars. The end result of PP burning of Li is 4He. I.e. fusion doesn't produce Li, it consumes it.
Bigbangcon
1 / 5 (3) Jul 29, 2015
It may be true that "the cross-section of Li/P reaction is very high at the temperature found in stars"; yet as this study indicates "older stars have less lithium than expected, and some younger ones up to ten times more". Likewise life is impossible from a cosmological and thermodynamics (entropy) point of view; yet it exists!

This is the whole point of the dialectical view of the universe. According to which, things eternally come into "being" in their own specific ways, evolve historically through stages and "passes out of existence" individually, mediated by blind chance and a necessity that is inherent in chance as dialectical negation of the negation or the triad- being-nothing-becoming.

For dialectics, there is no onetime (Big Bang) leap in Nature, precisely because Nature is made entirely of infinite leaps!

References above and some more by the same author, such as : http://redshift.v...2MAL.pdf
Bigbangcon
1 / 5 (3) Jul 29, 2015
It may be true that "the cross-section of Li/P reaction is very high at the temperature found in stars"; yet as this study indicates "older stars have less lithium than expected, and some younger ones up to ten times more". Likewise life is impossible from a cosmological and thermodynamics (entropy) point of view; yet it exists!

This is the whole point of the dialectical view of the universe. According to which, things eternally come into "being" in their own specific ways, evolve historically through stages and "passes out of existence" individually, mediated by blind chance and a necessity that is inherent in chance as dialectical negation of the negation or the triad- being-nothing-becoming.

For dialectics, there is no onetime (Big Bang) leap in Nature, precisely because Nature is made entirely of infinite leaps!

References above and some more by the same author, such as : http://redshift.v...2MAL.pdf
Bigbangcon
1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2015
Very sorry for the double posting. Problem with the "Submit" button.
barakn
5 / 5 (5) Jul 29, 2015
as this study indicates "older stars have less lithium than expected, and some younger ones up to ten times more". Likewise life is impossible from a cosmological and thermodynamics (entropy) point of view; yet it exists!

Science doesn't say any of this is impossible, especially the entropy comment, which appears to have been copied wholesale from creationist propaganda. Rather it means that based on our current limited observations and coarse-grained models, we don't understand some of the subtleties. The Li-poor old star dilemma may have been cracked in 2009 with a study that suggested stars with planets have less Li.
Bigbangcon
1 / 5 (4) Jul 29, 2015
"Science doesn't say any of this is impossible, especially the entropy comment, which appears to have been copied wholesale from creationist propaganda."

This is straw-man argument. The dialectical view of the universe expressed in the above comments and the references is very far from "creationist propaganda". On the contrary, these are against the mother of all "creationist propaganda" – the Big Bang creation theology of official physics.

The dialectical view ("the contradiction of the unity of the opposites") of the universe is most scientific, consistent, anti-theology (no first cause, no creator, no intelligent or mathematical design, no beginning or end) based on the quantum uncertainty principle, quantum tunnelling, real/virtual exchange of quantum particles etc. and other "spooky" quantum phenomena at Planck and micro scale. More references: http://www.ptep-o...9-03.PDF
barakn
5 / 5 (5) Jul 30, 2015
You're the one that brought up the life/entropy argument. My pointing out that it is an unscientific piece of hogswallow frequently parroted by a group of theologically-motivated crackpots is not a strawman argument. It is merely me pointing out to you stupid things you've said.
Bigbangcon
1 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2015
@ Barakn:

I rest my case. I have nothing to do with people who substitute healthy scientific debate with personal abuse. I will let the people who happen to follow this discussion to make their own judgements.

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