August 7, 2018
Beijing: Chinese astronomers have discovered the most lithium-rich giant star ever known, which could shed new light on the evolution of the universe.
With 3,000 times more lithium than a normal star, it was found in the direction of Ophiuchus, on the north side of the galactic disk, at a distance of 4,500 light years from Earth, reports Xinhua news agency.
The star has a mass almost 1.5 times our sun.
A research team, led by astronomers from National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC), made the discovery with the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), a special quasi-meridian reflecting Schmidt telescope located in NAOC’s Xinglong Observatory, in Hebei province.
The telescope can observe about 4,000 celestial bodies at one time and has made a massive contribution to the study of the structure of the galaxy.
Lithium is considered one of the three elements synthesised in the Big Bang, together with hydrogen and helium. The abundance of the three elements was regarded as the strongest evidence of the Big Bang.
The evolution of lithium has been a key subject in the research of the evolution of the universe and stars. However, giant stars rich in lithium are very rare, with only a few found over the past three decades. This makes their study remarkably challenging, said Zhao Gang, a lead astronomer at NAOC.
“The discovery of this star has largely increased the upper limit of observed lithium abundance,” said Zhao.
The results of the study were published in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.