Heavy metal stars

August 22, 2001

La silla telescope detects lots of lead in three distant binaries

Very high abundances of the heavy element Lead have been discovered in three distant stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. This finding strongly supports the long-held view that roughly half of the stable elements heavier than Iron are produced in common stars during a phase towards the end of their life when they burn their Helium - the other half results from supernova explosions. All the Lead contained in each of the three stars weighs about as much as our Moon.

The observations show that these "Lead stars" - all members of binary stellar systems - have been more enriched with Lead than with any other chemical element heavier than Iron. This new result is in excellent agreement with predictions by current stellar models about the build-up of heavy elements in stellar interiors.
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The new observations are reported by a team of Belgian and French astronomers who used the Coude Echelle Spectrometer on the ESO 3.6-m telescope at the La Silla Observatory (Chile).

The full text of this Press Release (ESO PR 19/01), with 2 photos and all weblinks, is available (after the expiry of the embargo) at:

http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2001/pr-19-01.html

ESO

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