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Stars with too much lithium may have stolen it

A new discovery may help astronomers explain why some stars have extra amounts of the element

11:00am, January 23, 2018
Subaru Telescope in Hawaii

STELLAR RICHES  Astronomers using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii (shown) found 12 new stars with too much lithium, one of which has the largest lithium abundance yet seen for its star type.

Something is giving small, pristine stars extra lithium. A dozen newly discovered stars contain more of the element than astronomers can explain.

Some of the newfound stars are earlier in their life cycles than stars previously found with too much lithium, researchers report in the Jan. 10 Astrophysical Journal Letters. Finding young lithium-rich stars could help explain where the extra material comes from without having to tinker with well-accepted stellar evolution rules.

The first stars in the Milky Way formed from the hydrogen, helium and small amounts of lithium that were produced in the Big Bang, so most of this ancient cohort have low lithium levels at the surface (SN: 11/14/15, p. 12). As the stars age, they usually lose even more.

Mysteriously, some aging stars have

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