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Ancient star retains youthful glow

06 September 2012, 14:44

Santiago - Scientists using a high-powered telescope in Chile have discovered an ancient star that seems oddly impervious to ageing.

The star is in a globular cluster dating back to the universe's distant past, but new images from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile show that one of the stars still has a considerable amount of lithium.

"Normally this element is gradually destroyed over the billions of years of a star's life, but this one star amongst thousands seems to have the secret of eternal youth," the ESO said in a statement.

"It has either somehow managed to retain its original lithium, or it has found a way to enrich itself with freshly made lithium."

Heavier chemical elements are typically only found in newer stars, like the Sun, and are dispersed at the end of a star's life, when they form the building blocks of new generations of stellar bodies, the ESO said.

The new image came from the Wide Field Imager on the massive 2.2m telescope the ESO operates in the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

The ESO, a collaboration involving 15 mainly European countries, operates a number of high-powered telescopes in Chile, including the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) in Paranal, the world's most advanced telescope.


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