Measurement of stellar age from uranium decay
Forskningsoutput: Tidskriftsbidrag › Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
The ages of the oldest stars in the Galaxy indicate when star formationbegan, and provide a minimum age for the Universe. Radioactive dating ofmeteoritic material and stars relies on comparing the present abundanceratios of radioactive and stable nuclear species to the theoreticallypredicted ratios of their production. The radioisotope <SUP>232</SUP>Th(half-life 14Gyr) has been used to date Galactic stars, but it decays byonly a factor of two over the lifetime of the Universe. <SUP>238</SUP>U(half-life 4.5Gyr) is in principle a more precise age indicator, buteven its strongest spectral line, from singly ionized uranium at awavelength of 385.957nm, has previously not been detected in stars. Herewe report a measurement of this line in the very metal-poor starCS31082-001<SUP>8</SUP>, a star which is strongly overabundant in itsheavy elements. The derived uranium abundance, log(U/H) = -13.7 +/- 0.14+/- 0.12 yields an age of 12.5 +/- 3Gyr, though this is still modeldependent. The observation of this cosmochronometer gives the mostdirect age determination of the Galaxy. Also, with improved theoreticaland laboratory data, it will provide a highly precise lower limit to theage of the Universe.