August 21, 2012 12:10 am
The star known as (deep breath) SDSS J102915+172927, in the constellation Leo, isn’t much to look at. It’s a bit smaller than the sun and a bit hotter — but then, the same can be said for millions of other stars in the Milky Way. If not for a detailed census of the universe carried out over the past decade or so by the automated Sloan Digital Sky Survey (the SDSS in the star’s name), astronomers would probably never have noticed it.
More to the point is the startling fact that, according to conventional star-formation theory, the object people are now calling “Caffau’s star” shouldn’t exist at all. It’s very deficient in two elements — carbon and iron — that many theorists believe are critical components for normal stars to form. It’s also deficient in lithium, which is not essential for a star to take shape but ought to be present all the same. Wonders Caffau’s co-author Hans-Gunter Ludwig, also at Heidelberg and Paris: “Where has [the lithium] gone?
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