What happened to all the lithium? The question has stumped astronomers for decades. While cosmologists have successfully predicted the abundance of the other light elements from the Big Bang, lithium has always come up short. Now, a team of astronomers may have found the reason: lithium-rich asteroids are smashing into white dwarves.Continue reading “Asteroids Crashing Into Dead Stars are Helping Explain Where the Universe’s Missing Lithium Went”
We can create matter from energy in the lab. Particle accelerators do this all the time. When we do, half of what is created is matter and the other half antimatter. There is a symmetry in physics that requires matter and antimatter to appear in equal amounts. But when we look around the universe, what we see is matter. So how did the big bang create all the matter we see without creating an equal amount of antimatter? The answer could be neutrinos.Continue reading “Did Neutrinos Stop The Early Universe From Annihilating Itself?”
It takes a rich and diverse set of complex molecules for things like stars, galaxies, planets and lifeforms like us to exist. But before humans and all the complex molecules we’re made of could exist, there had to be that first primordial molecule that started a long chain of chemical events that led to everything you see around you today.
Though it’s been long theorized to exist, the lack of observational evidence for that molecule was problematic for scientists. Now they’ve found it and those scientists can rest easy. Their predictive theory wins!Continue reading “The First Molecule that was Possible in the Universe has been Seen in Space”
Scientists have understood for some time that the most abundant elements in the Universe are simple gases like hydrogen and helium. These make up the vast majority of its observable mass, dwarfing all the heavier elements combined (and by a wide margin). And between the two, helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element, being present in about 24% of observable Universe’s elemental mass.
Whereas we tend to think of Helium as the hilarious gas that does strange things to your voice and allows balloons to float, it is actually a crucial part of our existence. In addition to being a key component of stars, helium is also a major constituent in gas giants. This is due in part to its very high nuclear binding energy, plus the fact that is produced by both nuclear fusion and radioactive decay. And yet, scientists have only been aware of its existence since the late 19th century.