Galactic Paleontology with Metal Poor Stars


Metal-poor stars are fascinating relics coming to us across vast shores of time from the ancient cosmos. In this project, we will make the first ever detailed study of their basic properties: temperature, radius and mass.


Associate Professor Peter Tuthill

Research Location

School of Physics

Program Type



Ultra metal-poor stars are the living fossils of the stellar kingdom. Although elements heavier than Helium only make up a tiny fraction of any star, they have a profound effect on the stellar structure.
Consequently stars born when the universe was substantially younger, before heavy elements were formed, should stand out from the crowd exhibiting dramatically different physical and thermal structure -- or so the theoretical models tell us. Because these fossil stars are rare and far from Earth, nobody has ever been able to examine one in detail. Until now. Your job in this project will put these stars under the microscope using the most powerful imaging arrays ever built: The Sydney University Stellar Interferometer and the CHARA array in Southern California. In making the first accurate measurements of the basic properties of metal-poor stars, you will determine whether these exotic objects are indeed as weird as theorists predict. The project then takes direct aim at one of the key questions in cosmology: the lithium abundance of very old stars is significantly lower than Big-Bang nucleosynthesis predicts. Where is the missing Lithium hiding, or is this a chink in the armour for Big-Bang cosmology?

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physics, astrophysics, astrophysical instrumentation, stellar physics, star formation, optical interferometry, Imaging, high resolution astronomy, metal poor stars, stars

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 653

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