Secret Life of Lithium in Sun-like Stars: Created, Not Just Destroyed

The Milky Way Galaxy.

Since lithium is such a sensitive element, it is very useful for understanding stars. It acts as a tracer for what is happening inside stars. (Image: Luminas_Art via Pixabay)

Lithium is becoming common in our everyday lives. It is the key ingredient in the batteries of our mobile phones and electric vehicles, but have you ever wondered where it comes from? A new study that was published in Nature Astronomy and was led by Prof. ZHAO Gang and Dr. Yerra Bharat Kumar from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) provides a fresh understanding of both how it is made, and how it is destroyed.

Researchers studied the lithium content of hundreds of thousands of Sun-like stars to understand how this element changes over time in stars. Dr. Yerra Bharat Kumar, the first author of the study, said:

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Lithium was produced in the Big Bang

Lithium is one of the three elements produced in the Big Bang. It gets destroyed very easily inside stars where it is too hot for it to survive, so its content generally decreases as stars age. Since it is such a sensitive element, it is very useful for understanding stars. It acts as a tracer for what is happening inside stars.

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

To better understand this sensitive element, researchers used data from a huge Chinese stellar spectroscopic survey based on The Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST). The survey is currently building a database of the spectra of 10 million stars. This study also utilized data from the Australian star survey known as GALAH. Dr. Yerra Bharat Kumar said:

Prof. ZHAO Gang, the co-corresponding author of this study, added:

Provided by: Chinese Academy of Sciences [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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