back to article SkyMapper turns up oldest star ever found

It's a one-in-60-million search: a group of astronomers has turned up a “second-generation” star, the oldest yet discovered. The star, while given an age of 13.6-plus billion years (more on this later), is quite nearby at just 6,000 light years distant, and is in the Milky Way. What's special about SMSS (SkyMapper Southern …


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  1. Richard Wharram

    What type of star is it?

    Presumably some kind of red dwarf judging by the age?

    1. Paul_Murphy

      Re: What type of star is it?

      Wasn't Dave supposed to kick-start the next universe using jump leads from Red Dwarf?

      OMG, we're living in Dave Listers universe...


      Oh, actually it was from Starbug, nevermind, ignore this post and carry on :-(

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Uffish


    If this star could hang around for so long why did its predesessor pop its clogs so quickly? Current estimate for age of universe 13.82 billion years, possible age of this star 13.6 plus billion years.

    1. Shark? what shark?

      Re: Timescale

      Large stars burn faster, much faster. Very large stars can last as little as a couple of million years. So as a early second generation star it will have formed from the debris of large first generation stars. This star won't be very big. The previous candidate for oldest star is 0.8 solar masses, according to wikipedia.

    2. bonkers

      Re: Timescale

      Yes its a weird one this, I had to go and check the numbers - I was going to suggest that "time-of-flight" was where the other billions of years had gone, that's the normal answer to the very-old-stars-observed question.

      Not in this case however, this star is only a few thousand light-years away, right next door on these billion light-year scales.

      I wonder if it must be from an unusually sparse region of the universe that has not seen much if any star formation. Perhaps only relatively recently (in the last billion years) did this one have the mass to collapse into a star, accretion can be very slow if the primordial gas is thin enough. Is it a dinosaur born late?

      The paper covers some more interesting theories, suggesting that all its neighbours must have self-immolated into black holes carrying all their iron etc with them - though normally even in the "full collapse" scenario a load of metals get spewed into space. The "gentle supernova" they propose sounds unlikely, even if it does then solve the Lithium problem.

      1. annodomini2

        Re: Timescale

        Assuming it actually went supernova and didn't just collapse in on itself.

        If the big bang theory is correct, the matter would be relatively densely located versus what we observe today, if due to this density and relatively low mass of the elements.

        The stars could get big, really big, possibly some big enough to for gravity overcome the energy from fusion and just collapse in on themselves.

        No Bang just blackhole.

  4. Tromos

    Alternatively the lithium has gone into batteries used by a race of alien scrap merchants for powering the electromagnets that they use for sucking the iron out of stars. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Very interesting indeed

    The "wimpyness" of early supernovae is of course relative. They still would make simultaneously setting off the entire nuclear arsenal on earth look like an ant sneezing. Having just observed a "bog standard" Type 1a supernova shine nearly as brightly as an entire galaxy (SN2014J in M82), I am always staggered by the sheer scale and violence of these events.

    Icon, because that's a seriously wimpy explosion

    1. Old Handle

      Re: Very interesting indeed

      I liked the comparison in this xkcd whatif. A supernova observed from the distance of the sun (1 AU) would be brighter than a nuclear bomb detonating pressed against your eyeball. I mean... assuming your could survive either of those things to notice.

      1. Martin Budden Silver badge

        Re: Very interesting indeed

        brighter by nine orders of magnitude!!!!!!!!!

  6. Gordon Pryra


    What a fantastic name for a star!

    1. Francis Boyle

      Sounds like

      a rap supergroup/

  7. Heisenberg

    Not completely unexpected...

    Yes, this is just essentially confirming what I've been predicting for some years now...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "Only Dr. Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA, provided an explanation"

      But tell us, professor. Do you have any idea how to DEFEND against them?

  8. Tom 7

    A star this old should be called a crooner.

    Or Cliffs dad.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The missing lithium is powering the stars, astronomy 101.

    Fortunately, we're not so stupid as a race to put lithium powered devices in our pockets considering their fire potential !!

  10. GBE

    I don't understand the reference to our sun...

    "These show that the star has very little iron – at a maximum of 10-7.1 the concentration in our Sun, it's the most iron-poor star ever characterised."

    Does that mean that the "old" star has a concentration less than1e-7.1 _times_ the concentration in our sun?

    1. Ian 55

      Re: I don't understand the reference to our sun...

      Yes, it's about 10,000,000 times less.

  11. TricksterWolf

    A science story in The Register without the made-up word "boffins"?! It's the end of the world.

    (Seriously, though, thanks for not using seventeen variations on "boffin" for once.)

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge

      Can you give me an example of a word which isn't made-up?

  12. wolf359


    So it is roughly the same age as the oldest galaxies at the edge of our view of the universe? All that really tells me is that the universe is a lot older that we think it is......and that FTL is obviously possible.....or that we really don't know squat about early star formation....

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