Astronomers in Chile discover ancient star with “eternal youth”
Using a high-powered telescope in the Atacama Desert, astronomers have discovered a star that appears strangely resistant to aging.
Friday, September 07, 2012
Category: Education - Technology
A star in the globular star cluster Messier 4, located in the constellation of Scorpius, possesses very unexpected properties. Photo courtesy of ESO / Facebook.
A star that appears to possess properties of “eternal youth” has been discovered by scientists at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
The star was found in a globular cluster dating back to the universe's distant past. Stars in this cluster shouldn’t be rich in heavier chemical elements because of their old age, and all stars that have been studied in the 10,000-plus star cluster conform to this theory - except for one.
New images show that one of the stars was found to have much more of the rare light element lithium than expected. According to a statement from the ESO, the source of this lithium is mysterious.
“Normally this element is gradually destroyed over the billions of years of a star's life, but this one star amongst thousands seems to have the secret of eternal youth,” the ESO said. “It has either somehow managed to retain its original lithium, or it has found a way to enrich itself with freshly made lithium.”
The new image is from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory, located 370 miles (600 km) north of Santiago on the outskirts of the Atacama Desert. La Silla is the ESO’s first research site in Chile, and has been utilized by world-class astronomers since the 1960s. The site takes advantage of the Atacama’s high altitude and dry climate, which are perfect for viewing the distant universe.
The ESO is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary of astronomical research in Chile. Formed in 1962 to give European astronomers access to the skies of the southern hemisphere, the organization operates three unique observing sites in the Atacama: La Silla, Chajnantor, and Paranal. Paranal is home to the Very Large Telescope - currently the largest optical telescope in the world.