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Missing lithium: a puzzle to cosmologists. The data obtained at the Paranal Observatory in Chile confirmed that the lithium level measured in the stars, even outside of our galaxy, is three times less than the value estimated by the Big Bang theory.

Missing lithium: a puzzle to cosmologists.

Recent astronomical observations of the star Messier 54 (M54), which belongs to the Sagittarius galaxy located about 90 thousand light years from Earth, show unexpectedly low levels of lithium than the values predicted by the Big Bang theory, the model of cosmological ‘origin and the formation of the universe to the most accredited today.

They confirm what was previously observed in the well nearest stars in our galaxy. The discovery, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical, poses a fundamental question for Astrophysics: it is not well understood at all the Big Bang theory or it is unclear how they work exactly the stars? This problem of “missing Lithium” was highlighted, for the first time, in 1982 by François and Monique Spite, spouses and French astrophysicists of the Observatoire de Paris in Meudon who made the first measurements.

Missing lithium: a puzzle to cosmologists.

“Many scientists have since repeated measurements by finding the same result,” recalls Joel Primack, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. However, the observations made up to now, have been limited to the stars of the Milky Way.

For this, the team of astronomers led by Alessio Mucciarelli University of Bologna, has set itself the goal of measuring the stellar lithium present at the outside of the Milky Way: “We thought that if the problem is also present in another Galaxy, “explains Mucciarelli,” we have confirmation that it is a universal problem, and not just local.

“Using the VLT (Very Large Telescope) ESO (European Southern Observatory), the most advanced optical instrument in the world, the astronomers analyzed the cluster high-resolution spectra stellar M54 from Earth about three times of the stars of the Milky Way, detecting an extremely similar lithium content to that present in the stars of galaxy that includes our planet. It does not question the idea of the Big Bang, which is that of a state of tremendous heat and density of the cosmos is then expanded the evolving universe of stars and galaxies that we observe today. The fact remains that the discrepancy between theory and observations is a sign that something is wrong. According to Cosmological theory, the universe, in the first three minutes of his existence, has acted as a nuclear reactor forging the three lightest chemical Elements, hydrogen, helium and lithium, while heavier elements, including the ‘ oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, silicon, are the product of stellar cores or supernova events, highly energetic explosions that determine the disintegration of certain types of stars.

From the Knowledge available on these really primordial nuclear reactions, the theoreticians are able to estimate the amount of the three light elements that should be produced. And it is, in general, the exact estimates.

“It’s one of the great successes of cosmology,” Primack adds, “but, as far as the lithium concentration,” says the researcher, “the estimated levels are about three times higher than those actually observed in the stars”.”The most radical solution to the problem is that the Big Bang theory is incomplete,” says Brian Fields, a theoretical physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, not directly involved in the study, “but less radical solutions have not solved the problem “.One possible explanation for this discrepancy could be that the stars originally contained much more lithium than now, and that element, somehow, was destroyed in nuclear reactions. “It is not a crazy idea,” said Fields, “but it’s hard to process it in detail”. A more likely explanation is that according to Fields Primack, is that in the first few minutes after the explosion of the Big Bang there was a kind of energy release that suppressed the lithium production and which was not taken into account in the model calculations cosmological. If so, lithium now missing may have been initially present in the form of detritus cosmological, and was later transformed into Dark Matter, that 95 percent of the universe’s matter that does not emit electromagnetic radiation of any kind, or at least not detectable by our current tools.

In this case, Primack notes, “the problem of lithium would not be a minor detail on the stars, but would indicate something fundamental about one of the biggest Mysteries of Cosmology as that of dark matter.”

Missing lithium: a puzzle to cosmologists.



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Missing lithium: a puzzle to cosmologists.