Starlight is the most abundant element in the Universe, but only a tiny fraction of it is actually visible.
But a new study shows that it can be made from a variety of metals.
“It’s just amazing that so much of the stuff we’re using today has so little of it,” says study co-author Eric J. Wiens, a planetary scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
“I don’t think there’s ever been any reason to think that this was going to happen.”
This is the first time that scientists have been able to make a starlight out of just about any metal, says lead author and postdoctoral fellow Robert A. Wessels, also a planetary chemist at the University of Maryland.
Metal-rich stars are the stuff of science fiction, but in practice they are more common than you might think.
They’re abundant in stars that are relatively young and have just enough mass to support liquid water on their surfaces, as well as stars that have a high density of gas.
Wulfs and Wessel have identified a variety that are particularly abundant in the form of a group of three-dimensional stars called “supernova remnants.”
These stars are incredibly massive, so the density is extremely high.
When they explode, a supernova remnant has about half the mass of the Sun, which is roughly 10 times as massive as the Sun.
These stars can be found in galaxies that are billions of light years away, and are also found in nearby galaxies that were never observed before.
It’s only through the observations of exoplanets that astronomers have discovered these types of stars.
This discovery is part of a new kind of planetary system known as “supermassive black holes.”
These supermassive black hole-like objects are so dense that their gravity is able to push material from the surrounding galaxy into the black hole, where it collapses and heats up to tens of millions of degrees Celsius.
In doing so, the material becomes denser, hotter and heavier.
Supermassive black Holes, in particular, are very rare in the cosmos, and astronomers have only seen them in a handful of galaxies, which makes their discovery particularly exciting.
“We can’t yet say whether they’re common or rare, but it’s exciting to think they’re actually there,” says Wessel.
This type of supernova remnants are so rare that they are difficult to spot because they are so small.
Wethers and his colleagues were able to identify a few of them using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, where the telescope was launched in 2002.
“The starlight was pretty bright, and then it just turned out to be a red supernova,” says lead researcher Robert A Wessel of the University, of Maryland, Baltimore.
They also detected it using the Spitzer Space Telescope, which has recently become the first observatory in the world to detect such a supermassive binary.
The astronomers measured the starlight with a spectrometer, and found that it came from a star with an energy that is a bit less than 10 million electron volts.
“This is a fairly good match to the type of metal we used, and the metal we found, from a different supernova, was really, really different,” says co-lead author Eric Wessel, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for the researchers.
“In the future, we may be able to use this new knowledge to look at stars in a different way,” says A Wulf.
Withers and J Wessel are co-authors of a paper describing their findings in the Astrophysical Journal.”
Our study is exciting because it opens up a new class of objects that are potentially more abundant than we’ve previously thought,” Wessel adds.
Withers and J Wessel are co-authors of a paper describing their findings in the Astrophysical Journal.