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Beyond Earthly Skies

New Class of Totally Metal Stars

9 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
New Class of Totally Metal Stars
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Stars form from the collapse of giant gas clouds comprised almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with heavy elements (i.e. elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) making up only a tiny percentage of the material. In these clouds, dust grains contain a large fraction of the heavy elements. Astrophysicists refer to elements heavier than hydrogen and helium as metals, and the concentration of heavy elements in a star is referred to as the star’s metallicity. For example, the Sun’s metallicity is 0.02, which means 2 percent of its mass is in the form of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.Turbulence is a ubiquitous process in nature. A study by Philip F. Hopkins (2014) suggests that given the right conditions in star-forming clouds, dust grains can behave as aerodynamic particles and decouple from the gaseous hydrogen and helium. The presence of turbulence can preferentially concentrate the dust grains in specific regions such that the local abundance of heavy elements can become so high that stars made almost entirely of metal can form. Such stars would have metallicities approaching 1.00. In a star-forming cloud with preferential concentration of dust grains, perhaps one in 10,000 stars could form as a “totally metal” star.For ...

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