First Stars in Universe May Have Spun Like Crazy
|10:21:47 PM, Thursday, April 28, 2011|
"The first stars in the universe may have been extraordinarily fast spinners, whirling at more than a million miles per hour, scientists say.
These stars, which researchers called "spinstars," formed right after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago and were likely massive giants, with eight times or more the mass of our sun, according to a new study. They lived fast and died young, after no more than 30 million years. The nuclear fusion reactions that drove these stars also provided the universe with its first elements heavier than helium.
A 12-billion-year-old globular cluster of stars known as NGC 6522 provided the basis for the proposal of spinstars.
NGC 6522 -- the oldest known globular cluster in our galaxy -- probably witnessed the early phases of the seeding of these heavy elements across the cosmos. However, a study of the light from the cluster's stars, which reveals what elements lie within, yielded contradictory evidence about the nature of the first stars.
Astrophysicist Cristina Chiappini at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, and her colleagues re-examined data they had gathered on NGC 6522 using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT). They discovered eight old stars with strangely high levels of the rare elements strontium and yttrium..."