Lithium burning

Lithium burning is a nucleosynthetic process in which lithium is depleted in a star. Lithium is generally present in brown dwarfs and not in low-mass stars. Stars, which by definition must achieve the high temperature (2.5 × 106 K) necessary for fusing hydrogen, rapidly deplete their lithium.


Burning of the most abundant isotope of lithium, lithium-7, occurs by a collision of 7Li and a proton producing two helium-4 nuclei. The temperature necessary for this reaction is just below the temperature necessary for hydrogen fusion. Convection in low-mass stars ensures that lithium in the whole volume of the star is depleted. Therefore, the presence of the lithium line in a candidate brown dwarf's spectrum is a strong indicator that it is indeed substellar.


From a study of lithium abundances in 53 T Tauri stars, it has been found that lithium depletion varies strongly with size, suggesting that lithium burning by the P-P chain, during the last highly convective and unstable stages during the pre–main sequence later phase of the Hayashi contraction may be one of the main sources of energy for T Tauri stars. Rapid rotation tends to improve mixing and increase the transport of lithium into deeper layers where it is destroyed. T Tauri stars generally increase their rotation rates as they age, through contraction and spin-up, as they conserve angular momentum. This causes an increased rate of lithium loss with age. Lithium burning will also increase with higher temperatures and mass, and will last for at most a little over 100 million years.

The P-P chain for lithium burning is as follows

→  7

→  7


→  8
→  4
+ energy

It will not occur in stars less than sixty times the mass of Jupiter. In this way, the rate of lithium depletion can be used to calculate the age of the star.

Lithium test

The use of lithium to distinguish candidate brown dwarfs from low-mass stars is commonly referred to as the lithium test. Heavier stars like our Sun can retain lithium in their outer atmospheres, which never get hot enough for lithium depletion, but those are distinguishable from brown dwarfs by their size. Brown dwarfs at the high end of their mass range (60–75 MJ) can be hot enough to deplete their lithium when they are young. Dwarfs of mass greater than 65 MJ can burn off their lithium by the time they are half a billion years old, thus this test is not perfect.[1]


  1. ^ Basri, G. (1998). Rafael Rebolo; Eduardo L. Martin; Maria Rosa Zapatero Osorio (eds.). The Lithium Test for Young Brown Dwarfs (invited review). Proceedings of a Workshop held in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain, 17–21 March 1997, ASP Conference Series #134. p. 394. Bibcode:1998ASPC..134..394B.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)

Blitzars are a hypothetical type of astronomical object in which a spinning pulsar rapidly collapses into a black hole. They are proposed as an explanation for fast radio bursts (FRBs). The idea was proposed in 2013 by Heino Falcke and Luciano Rezzolla.

Bright giant

The luminosity class II in the Yerkes spectral classification is given to bright giants. These are stars which straddle the boundary between ordinary giants and supergiants, based on the appearance of their spectra.

CN star

A CN star is a star with strong cyanogen bands in its spectrum. Cyanogen is a simple molecule of one carbon atom and one nitrogen atom, with absorption bands around 388.9 and 421.6 nm. This group of stars was first noticed by Nancy G. Roman who called them 4150 stars.

Electroweak star

An electroweak star is a theoretical type of exotic star, whereby the gravitational collapse of the star is prevented by radiation pressure resulting from electroweak burning, that is, the energy released by conversion of quarks to leptons through the electroweak force. This process occurs in a volume at the star's core approximately the size of an apple, containing about two Earth masses.The stage of life of a star that produces an electroweak star is theorized to occur after a supernova collapse. Electroweak stars are denser than quark stars, and may form when quark degeneracy pressure is no longer able to withstand gravitational attraction, but may still be withstood by electroweak burning radiation pressure. This phase of a star's life may last upwards of 10 million years.

Frozen star (hypothetical star)

In astronomy, a frozen star, besides a disused term for a black hole, is a type of hypothetical star that, according to the astronomers Fred Adams and Gregory P. Laughlin, may appear in the future of the Universe when the metallicity of the interstellar medium is several times the solar value. Frozen stars would belong to a spectral class "H", due to being rich in hydrides.

Helium-weak star

Helium-weak stars are chemically peculiar stars which have a weak helium lines for their spectral type. Their helium lines place them in a later (ie. cooler) spectral type then their hydrogen lines.

Lambda Boötis star

A Lambda Boötis star is a type of peculiar star which has an unusually low abundance of iron peak elements in its surface layers. One possible explanation for this is that it is the result of accretion of metal-poor gas from a circumstellar disc, and a second possibility is the accretion of material from a hot Jupiter suffering from mass loss. The prototype is Lambda Boötis.

Lead star

A lead star is a low-metallicity star with an overabundance of lead and bismuth as compared to other products of the S-process.

List of hottest stars

This is a list of hottest stars so far discovered (excluding degenerate stars), arranged by decreasing temperature. The stars with temperatures higher than 60,000 K are included.

OB star

OB stars are hot, massive stars of spectral types O or early-type B that form in loosely organized groups called OB associations. They are short lived, and thus do not move very far from where they formed within their life. During their lifetime, they will emit much ultraviolet radiation. This radiation rapidly ionizes the surrounding interstellar gas of the giant molecular cloud, forming an H II region or Strömgren sphere.

In lists of spectra the "spectrum of OB" refers to "unknown, but belonging to an OB association so thus of early type".

Photometric-standard star

Photometric-standard stars are a series of stars that have had their light output in various passbands of photometric system measured very carefully. Other objects can be observed using CCD cameras or photoelectric photometers connected to a telescope, and the flux, or amount of light received, can be compared to a photometric-standard star to determine the exact brightness, or stellar magnitude, of the object.A current set of photometric-standard stars for UBVRI photometry was published by Arlo U. Landolt in 1992 in the Astronomical Journal.


The photosphere is a star's outer shell from which light is radiated. The term itself is derived from Ancient Greek roots, φῶς, φωτός/phos, photos meaning "light" and σφαῖρα/sphaira meaning "sphere", in reference to it being a spherical surface that is perceived to emit light. It extends into a star's surface until the plasma becomes opaque, equivalent to an optical depth of approximately 2/3, or equivalently, a depth from which 50% of light will escape without being scattered.

In other words, a photosphere is the deepest region of a luminous object, usually a star, that is transparent to photons of certain wavelengths.

Q star

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Starfield (astronomy)

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Stellar atmosphere

The stellar atmosphere is the outer region of the volume of a star, lying above the stellar core, radiation zone and convection zone.

Stellar mass

Stellar mass is a phrase that is used by astronomers to describe the mass of a star. It is usually enumerated in terms of the Sun's mass as a proportion of a solar mass (M☉). Hence, the bright star Sirius has around 2.02 M☉. A star's mass will vary over its lifetime as additional mass becomes accreted, such as from a companion star, or mass is ejected with the stellar wind or pulsational behavior.

Supernova impostor

Supernova impostors are stellar explosions that appear at first to be a supernova but do not destroy their progenitor stars. As such, they are a class of extra-powerful novae. They are also known as Type V supernovae, Eta Carinae analogs, and giant eruptions of luminous blue variables (LBV).

T Tauri star

T Tauri stars (TTS) are a class of variable stars associated with youth. They are less than about ten million years old. This class is named after the prototype, T Tauri, a young star in the Taurus star-forming region. They are found near molecular clouds and identified by their optical variability and strong chromospheric lines. T Tauri stars are pre-main-sequence stars in the process of contracting to the main sequence along the Hayashi track, a luminosity–temperature relationship obeyed by infant stars of less than 3 solar masses (M☉) in the pre-main-sequence phase of stellar evolution. It ends when a star of 0.5 M☉ develops a radiative zone, or when a larger star commences nuclear fusion on the main sequence.

Yellow giant

A yellow giant is a luminous giant star of low or intermediate mass (roughly 0.5–11 solar masses (M)) in a late phase of its stellar evolution. The outer atmosphere is inflated and tenuous, making the radius large and the surface temperature as low as 5,200-7500 K. The appearance of the yellow giant is from white to yellow, including the spectral types F and G. About 10.6 percent of all giant stars are yellow giants.


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