A team of astronomers believes they have found one of the oldest stars in the universe. SMSS J160540.18–144323.1 has the lowest iron levels ever observed on a star in the Milky Way.
A group of scientists, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions and the Australian National University, think they have found one of the oldest stars in the Universe. The results of their findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The star, a red giant called SMSS J160540.18–144323.1, was found 35,000 light-years from Earth and has the lowest iron levels ever detected in a star in our galaxy.
“This incredibly anaemic star, which likely formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, has iron levels 1.5 million times lower than that of the Sun. That’s like one drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool,” explained astronomer Thomas Nordlander, according to ScienceAlert.
The primitive Universe had no metals, so the first stars were basically composed of hydrogen and helium. For this reason, quantifying the level of iron helps to determine the age of the stars.
The newly discovered star likely was one of the first to appear in the second generation of stars – scientists believe that our Sun, for example, is from the hundredth generation of stars. Unfortunately, SMSS J160540.18-144323.1 is dying. Because it is a red giant, it is already at the end of its useful life, fusing the remaining hydrogen into helium.