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Letting Lithium Live It Up

4 Dec 2020, 17:00 UTC
Letting Lithium Live It Up
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As stars evolve from the red giant branch to the red clump, they accumulate lithium on their surfaces. How does this accumulation happen?
The Red Giant Branch…
Stars with less than eight solar masses, or low mass stars, live fairly placid lives. A low mass star would start off burning hydrogen in its core like all main sequence stars. Once the core hydrogen has been exhausted, the star resorts to burning hydrogen in a shell surrounding its passive core, which is now mostly helium. This stage of life is called the red giant branch (RGB) stage.
While the helium core may not be burning any material, that doesn’t mean it’s not doing anything! The sheer mass of the core means that it collapses in on itself to the point that the only thing holding it up against gravity is something called electron degeneracy — you can’t fit more than one electron in a space meant for only one electron.
A qualitative stellar evolution track going all the way to the horizontal branch. A low-mass star would begin its life somewhere on the main sequence line before moving up the red giant branch, undergoing helium flashes, and moving on to ...

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