Jerome Bouvier, researcher at the Institute for Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble visits IFA

Jerome Bouvier is a leading French researcher in astrophysics and this is not his first time at the IFA. Two years ago, he spent a year at the institute, and gave seminars on stellar evolution and stellar rotation. He also came several times to work at the observatories of Paranal and La Silla in northern Chile. But on this opportunity he was here for a very short period, focusing on working on the data and writing the results of his research with the Chile based team.

“I met Amelia Bayo several years ago, we worked together in France and Chile, and two years ago she invited me to stay a year here in Valparaíso, so I came for a year and we started to work together with her and one of her students, Javier Arancibia, and we are still working together the three of us on Lithium ignition in young stars”, says Dr. Bouvier.

His current research is focused on studying Lithium, one of the elements present on stars, which is used to measure the age of a star.  As Lithium is a light element it is easily destroyed, so you have larger amounts of lithium in young stars, but as the stars ages, it burns and decreases.

“Lithium is like a chronometer, you can tell the age of a star from the amount of lithium in the star. But there is a second effect that is linked to the rotation of the star. It seems that stars that rotate faster have more lithium at a given age, than stars that rotate more slowly. We are not sure why. We measure lithium at the surface of the star, and what we measure tells us something of what is going on inside the star. So that is what we are trying to investigate, what happens with the lithium that burns and melts inside the star? It is very intriguing.” adds Dr. Bouvier.

Dr. Bouvier in Northern Chile

The team went to the telescope to observe lithium in fast rotating stars and in slow rotating stars and what they observed was exactly the opposite of what they expected. Fast rotating stars have more lithium than slow rotating stars, which will require more observations to understand. “We were expecting the opposite so it is really something we don’t understand, and we are working on that. We are getting more observations with Amelia and Javier and right now this week we are working on a new region observed with the La Silla 2.2m telescope, and we are getting the same results as we got earlier for another region, so its not and exception, but seems to be the rule. We need to understand why it is like that”, concludes Dr. Bouvier

Understanding the role of Lithium inside of the stars might help us to understand the way this element works, and eventually contribute to technological development, but there is a long way to go to get to there. “All elements are being made in the stars. Lithium is very special because it tells us a lot of what is going on inside the stars and also during the life of a star. How could this knowledge be used in battery technology, I am not sure. What is interesting is that most of the lithium used in batteries comes from Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, from the salars, and all these observations we also do from there, not to far from the salars, so that is the connection that I see for the moment”, says Dr. Bouvier with a nice smile, before focusing on his computer and continuing analysing the data.

You can find more information abot Dr Bouvier research at: http://spidi-eu.org