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posted by martyb on Thursday November 03 2016, @08:03PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the uplifting-story dept.

Lithium, the lightest solid element, is created during astrophysical phenomena, but its origin has been elusive. Recently, a group of researchers detected enormous quantities of beryllium-7, an unstable element that decays into lithium in 53.2 days, inside nova Sagittarii 2015 N.2, which suggests that novae are the main source of lithium in the galaxy.

Practically every chemical element has an astronomical origin. Light elements were formed between 10 seconds and 20 minutes after the Big Bang, including hydrogen (75%), helium (25%) and a very small amount of lithium and beryllium.

The remaining chemical elements were formed in stars, either through fusion of other elements inside the nucleus, which begins with the fusion of hydrogen into helium, and produces increasingly heavy elements until iron forms. Other processes such as supernovae explosions or reactions in the atmospheres of giant stars produce gold, lead and copper, among others. Those elements were in turn recycled into new stars and planets, until the present time.

Luca Izzo, researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC), says, "But lithium posed a problem: We knew that 25 percent of existing lithium comes from primordial nucleosynthesis, but we were not able to trace the origins of the remaining 75 percent."

So that's why the hoverboards and Samsung Galaxy Note 7's have been exploding...


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @08:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @08:38PM (#422231)

    Shit, I thought it was free market capitalism that created the elements.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:13PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:13PM (#422248)

      There are also quite a few that think it was god or jesus or whatever silly fairy tale they came up with.

    • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:43PM

      by JNCF (4317) on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:43PM (#422261) Journal

      Shit, I thought it was free market capitalism that created the elements.

      Nah, that was Euclid. Unlike aristarchus, he's pretty quiet these days.

      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday November 03 2016, @10:49PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Thursday November 03 2016, @10:49PM (#422281)

        Euclid just left a mess of disorganized elements all over the place.
        From now on I'm gonna call my broom "Mendeleev"

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @08:51PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @08:51PM (#422238)

    There's your answer.

    Now, what is your question?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:06PM (#422243)

      Where do stars come from?

      • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:10PM

        by LoRdTAW (3755) on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:10PM (#422246) Journal

        Gas and gravity.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @11:04PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @11:04PM (#422286)

          OK let's try it again.

          There's your answer.

          Now, what is your question?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:27PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:27PM (#422252)

        Eh Sammy, it goes back to the Babylonians.

        - Cliff Clavin on "Cheers"

    • (Score: 2) by JNCF on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:49PM

      by JNCF (4317) on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:49PM (#422264) Journal

      What do you get when you multiply six by nine in base thirteen?

    • (Score: 2) by stormwyrm on Friday November 04 2016, @06:52AM

      by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 04 2016, @06:52AM (#422394) Journal

      The universe started off with hydrogen and helium, and a negligible amount of anything else. Nuclear fusion in stars was responsible for making carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, neon, magnesium, silicon, sulphur, and iron, cobalt, and nickel. Stellar burning makes free neutrons too, which can be absorbed by those other elements, producing the other elements in between and somewhat higher up the Periodic Table like lead and bismuth. Supernova explosions can make even heavier elements. So these stellar processes can make all of the elements in the Periodic Table, except for three. How about lithium, beryllium, and boron? You can't make them using ordinary nuclear fusion, because adding hydrogen to helium makes Lithium-5, which is unstable, and fusing two heliums makes beryllium-8, which is also unstable. Obviously you can't make those elements by doing fusion of carbon either because carbon is already heavier than they are. We have a very small bit of primordial lithium left over from the beginning of the universe, but the rest was something of a mystery.

      Before this the only known process for making lithium was cosmic ray spallation [wikipedia.org], but it seems that this process can't account for all the lithium we have. I suppose something similar is happening on these white dwarf stars that are undergoing novae: the relatively milder nuclear reactions in the nova take some of the oxygen that makes up the white dwarf and breaks it up into beryllium-7, which decays with a half-life of 53 days into stable lithium-7, the same way cosmic ray spallation does. Perhaps stable beryllium and boron can also be made in the same way.

      --
      Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:56PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @09:56PM (#422268)

    Nova != supernova
    (The opening sequence to the PBS "Science" program "NOVA" is completely wrong.)

    A nova is a phenomenon peculiar to some binary stars, where there is an ongoing exchange of material between the pair.
    It gives a dramatic effect and adds to the brilliance of the pair but is not the one-time explosive thing that happens with a supernova.

    A supernova is a star (of 2.3 solar masses or more) which, having depleted its supply of hydrogen, has reached the end of its life.
    The inward force of gravity overcomes the weakened force of the greatly-reduced outward force due to fusion; the star first collapses then rebounds with a dramatic, very energetic explosion.

    It is that energy which creates any naturally-occurring elements which are heavier than iron.

    TFA postulates that some lighter elements also come out of the event.
    Others will say that that is simply the way those are disbursed throughout the cosmos after previously being created by hydrogen fusion.

    -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @10:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03 2016, @10:05PM (#422272)

      s/created by hydrogen fusion/created by hydrogen fusion and the gravity of the star

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by butthurt on Friday November 04 2016, @12:52AM

      by butthurt (6141) on Friday November 04 2016, @12:52AM (#422324) Journal

      The original article uses the term "nova" rather than "supernova":

      http://mnrasl.oxfordjournals.org/content/463/1/L117 [oxfordjournals.org]

      It is a study of Nova Sagittarii 2015 #2 (Nova Sagittarii 2015 No. 2) which, as I understand it, means the second nova observed in the constellation Sagittarius in the year 2015.

      Some stars fuse helium, rather than hydrogen. Some even fuse carbon, oxygen or silicon.

      http://physics.about.com/od/physicsqtot/g/StellarNucleosynthesis.htm [about.com]

    • (Score: 2) by stormwyrm on Friday November 04 2016, @03:06AM

      by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 04 2016, @03:06AM (#422357) Journal

      TFA postulates that some lighter elements also come out of the event.

      That is not what the article says. The title is correct, I think. A core collapse supernova (type II or type 1b/c) may create a lot of heavy elements in the throes of its destruction but lighter elements like lithium cannot be made in large quantities by such a process. A massive star forced into attempting iron fusion generally winds up making elements heavier than iron when it explodes in a supernova. A Type Ia supernova results from a white dwarf that has accreted so much matter that it exceeds the Chandrasekhar limit, becoming dense enough to ignite runaway carbon fusion. The resulting explosion generally winds up producing elements heavier than carbon, and no large quantities of lithium can be made in that process. A white dwarf nova on the other hand seems like it can create a lot of lithium in the relatively milder fusion reactions involved, as its gravity draws hydrogen away from the outer envelope of its companion star.

      --
      Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04 2016, @05:18AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04 2016, @05:18AM (#422379)

    Title: "Study Confirms that Stellar Novae are the Main Source of Lithium in the Universe"

    Summary: "Recently, a group of researchers detected enormous quantities of beryllium-7, an unstable element that decays into lithium in 53.2 days, inside nova Sagittarii 2015 N.2, which suggests that novae are the main source of lithium in the galaxy."

    I did not look at the journal article but I would bet that things become even more uncertain and apply to a smaller scope.

  • (Score: 1) by kanweg on Friday November 04 2016, @07:16AM

    by kanweg (4737) on Friday November 04 2016, @07:16AM (#422400)

    And Elon Musk is trying to reach for the stars with his rockets. Soon he'll close the circle.

    Bert
    Topic for a science fiction novel: Mining the stars for lithium (just let the hydrogen and helium evaporate).

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by stormwyrm on Friday November 04 2016, @07:19AM

    by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 04 2016, @07:19AM (#422401) Journal

    These three elements, lithium, beryllium, and boron, cannot be made by any nuclear fusion process. Hydrogen can be fused into helium, and the next fusion reaction produces carbon and from then on it's easy enough to make even heavier elements. The only way to make these elements is by fissioning a heavier nucleus. This happens in nature from cosmic ray spallation, and presumably a similar process is happening in these white dwarf stars that go nova. Many white dwarfs are made up of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, so perhaps what is happening is that the nuclear reactions of the nova break up a nitrogen or oxygen nucleus from the dwarf into beryllium-7, which eventually decays to lithium-7.

    --
    Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate.