Nov 25, 2021 11:55 GMT
According to the researchers, the amount of lithium in Reid 1B is 13,000 times higher than what is on Earth.
A team of researchers announced this Wednesday the discovery of an immense lithium deposit located at 16.9 light years away of our planet and housed in the cosmic object Reid 1B, the oldest and coldest brown dwarf where the presence of this valuable mineral has been verified.
According to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, which in conjunction with the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics of Spain carried out the study, brown dwarfs or ‘failed stars’ are the natural link between stars and planets Are more massive than JupiterBut not enough to burn hydrogen, which is the fuel stars use to shine.
“They are particularly interesting, because it was predicted that some of these objects could preserve the lithium content intact, the so-called ‘white oil‘because of its rarity and relevance for multiple applications, “explain the researchers, who published their findings in detail in the scientific journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
With the help of the OSIRIS instrument, installed in the Gran Telescopio Canarias (currently the largest optical and infrared telescope in the world), the team of astronomers carried out between February and August of this year high-sensitivity spectroscopic observations of two binaries whose components are four brown dwarfs.
They did not detect lithium in three of these failed stars, but they did in Reid 1B, the weakest and coldest of them all. In this way, the researchers found “a deposit of cosmic lithium that is never destroyed, whose origin dates back to a time before the formation of the system to which Reid 1B belongs “.
The estimated amount of lithium that the brown dwarf harbors is 13,000 times higher the one on Earth, which is why astronomers describe it as “a hidden treasure chest“.
Carlos del Burgo Díaz, co-author of the study, explains that “although primordial lithium was created 13,800 million years ago together with hydrogen and helium, as a result of nuclear reactions after the Big Bang, today it is found up to four times more lithium in the universe“.
Díaz adds that, “although this slight element can be destroyed, more is also created, for example, in explosive events such as novae and supernovae, so brown dwarfs like Reid 1B they can pack and protect it“.
For his part, the main author of the study, Eduardo Lorenzo Martín Guerrero de Escalante, concludes that there are billions of brown dwarfs in the Milky Way, and that the lithium they contain “constitutes the largest known deposit of this valuable element in our cosmic neighborhood. “