Astronomers Find a Record-Breaking Star That’s Nearly as Old as The Universe

One more historic star has been located lurking in the Milky Way. All over 35,000 light-several years absent, a purple huge star named SMSS J160540.18– was located to have the least expensive iron concentrations of any star yet analysed in the galaxy.


This indicates that it can be one particular of the oldest stars in the Universe, possibly belonging to the second generation of stars right after the Universe burst into existence 13.8 billion several years back.

“This amazingly anaemic star, which very likely formed just a couple hundred million several years right after the Significant Bang, has iron concentrations one.5 million periods reduced than that of the Sunshine,” stated astronomer Thomas Nordlander of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in three Proportions and the Australian Nationwide University.

“That’s like one particular drop of h2o in an Olympic swimming pool.”

And that is how we can explain to how aged the star is, since the very early Universe experienced no metals at all. The initial stars were built up generally of hydrogen and helium, and were believed to be very enormous, very sizzling, and very shorter-lived. These stars are named Inhabitants III, and we’ve hardly ever witnessed them.

Stars are ‘powered’ by nuclear fusion, wherever the atomic nuclei of lighter aspects are mixed to make heavier types. In scaled-down stars, that is largely the fusion of hydrogen into helium. But in larger stars – these types of as the Inhabitants III stars are believed to have been – aspects up to and which include silicon and iron can be forged.


When these types of stars finish their lives in breathtaking supernova explosions, they spew those aspects out into the Universe. As new stars variety, the aspects get caught up in them – and thus, how a great deal steel a star contains is a trustworthy indicator of when it formed.

For instance, we know that the Sunshine is numerous – probably a hundred – generations from the Significant Bang, centered on our star’s metallicity.

But we’ve located other stars in the Milky Way that have a small metallicity, indicating an early Universe origin. 1 these types of object is 2MASS J18082002–5104378 B, the previous record-holder for the least expensive iron information of [Fe/H] = −4.07 ± .07 – close to eleven,750 periods considerably less metallic than the Sunshine.

But SMSS J160540.18– is at [Fe/H] = −6.two ± .two. As Nordlander explained, that is close to one.5 million periods considerably less metallic.

It really is not likely any Inhabitants III stars survived long ample for us to review them. But through the stars that arrived right after, their tales can be unravelled.

The scientists believe that the star that gave SMSS J160540.18– its iron was reasonably small mass for the early Universe, only close to 10 periods the mass of the Sunshine. This is enormous ample to make a neutron star and, right after a comparatively weak supernova, the staff thinks this is what it did.


A supernova explosion can trigger a fast neutron-capture approach, or r-approach. This is a collection of nuclear reactions in which atomic nuclei collide with neutrons to synthesise aspects heavier than iron.

There was no significant proof of these aspects in the star, which could imply that these aspects were captured back by the recently dead neutron star. But ample iron escaped that it was integrated into the formation of SMSS J160540.18–

It was very likely one particular of the very initial members of that second generation of stars.

And it can be dying. It really is a purple huge, which indicates the star is at the very finish of its lifespan, applying up the very last of its hydrogen prior to it switches to helium fusion.

The staff thinks that studying it a lot more closely could generate even a lot more facts about Inhabitants III stars. But envision the tales it could explain to if it could communicate.

The research has been released in the Regular Notices of the Royal Astronomical Modern society.

A variation of this tale was initial released in August 2019.