Astronomers map a mysterious feature in space

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A research team led by Lund University in Sweden has provided an important clue to the origin of the element Ytterbium in the Milky Way, showing that the element largely comes from supernova explosions. Groundbreaking research also offers new opportunities to study the evolution of our galaxy. The study is published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Ytterbium is one of four elements in the periodic table named after the Ytterby mine in the Stockholm archipelago. The element was first discovered in the black mineral gadolinite, which was first identified in the Ytterby mine in 1787.

Ytterbium is interesting because it can have two different cosmic origins. The researchers believe that half comes from short-lived heavy stars, while the other half comes from more regular stars, much like the sun, and they create ytterbium in the later stages of their life. relatively long life.

“By studying stars formed at different times in the Milky Way, we were able to study the rate at which ytterbium content was increasing in the galaxy. What we’ve managed to do is add relatively young stars to the study, says Martin Montelius, an astronomy researcher at Lund University at the time of the research, and now at the University of Groningen.

It has been speculated that Ytterbium was blasted into space by supernova explosions, stellar winds, and planetary nebulae. There it accumulated in large space clouds from which new stars formed.

By examining the high-quality spectra of about 30 stars in close proximity to the sun, the researchers were able to provide important experimental support for the theory of the cosmic origin of ytterbium. It seems that Ytterbium comes largely from supernova explosions.

“The instrument we used is a super-sensitive spectrometer that can detect infrared light at high resolution. It has been used with two telescopes in the southern United States, one in Arizona and one in Texas,” says Martin Montelius.

Since the analysis of ytterbium was carried out using infrared light, it will now be possible to study large areas of the Milky Way that hide behind impenetrable dust. Infrared light can pass through dust the same way red light from a sunset can pass through Earth’s atmosphere.

“Our study opens up the possibility of mapping large parts of the Milky Way that have not been explored before. This means that we will be able to compare the history of evolution in different parts of the galaxy”, concludes Rebecca Forsberg, PhD student in astronomy at the University of Lund.

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Material provided by Lund University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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