The shortage of lithium has placed astronomers in a difficult position for decades, but now, with the help of one of the most powerful observatories in the world, we have discovered that it is not unique to the stars of the Milky Way.
While observing the Messier 54 star cluster with the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory, something interesting was discovered about the hundreds of thousands of old stars located in it. Originally, the cluster was thought to be located within the Milky Way, but in fact M54 is in orbit of our galaxy in the dwarf galaxy Sagittarius, at a distance of about 90,000 light years from our solar system. Thanks to this observation, astronomers were able to measure how many lithium stars are located in the constellation. As it turned out, not so much.
Astronomers now know that the problem of a shortage of lithium is inherent not only to the stars of the Milky Way, but also to the stars of ancient clusters outside our galaxy.
Astronomers have several theories regarding the lack of lithium:
- It is possible that astronomers made mistakes when calculating lithium in the early Universe (although this is unlikely).
- Young stars in the early universe somehow destroyed lithium.
- Old stars in the modern universe somehow destroy lithium.