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Lithium pollution of a white dwarf records the accretion of an extrasolar planetesimal

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Science  08 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6525, pp. 168-172
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1714

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Potassium and lithium on a white dwarf

White dwarfs are dense stellar remnants left when a dying parent star throws off its outer layers. The high gravitational fields should cause heavy elements to rapidly sink below the white dwarf surface. Nevertheless some “polluted” white dwarfs have evidence for those materials on their surface, which is thought to be due to the recent accretion of rocky bodies from a surrounding planetary system. Kaiser et al. report a white dwarf with pollution by potassium and lithium. This observation provides a record of the composition of the accreted rocky bodies and of the Galactic lithium abundance when the planetary system formed, billions of years ago.

Science, this issue p. 168

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