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Discovery

Archaeology of the Stars

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Photo of Timothy Beers, professor of astronomy and physics at Michigan State University.

Timothy Beers, university distinguished professor of astronomy and physics at Michigan State University.

Credit: MSU


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Timothy Beers, professor of astronomy and physics at Michigan State University, discusses his research on the formation of the earliest stars in the universe. The first stars born out of the Big Bang were very massive with short lives and exploded. Low-mass stars formed shortly after these massive stars. Their atmospheres contain elemental abundances produced from the massive stars. From this evidence, we are learning how elements heavier than hydrogen and helium formed. This helps us to understand the murkiest part of the universe's history, the story at the beginning. One star showed a strong signature of R-process elements that are found at the end of the periodic table. The abundance of Uranium-238 and Thorium-232 provides two atomic clocks. If you measure the rate of the ticking, then you can find when the ticking began.

Credit: NSCL