Surprise Factor in How Stars Die: Sodium
The sodium content of sunlike stars determines if they skip a phase of death.
The study could upend current theories about how some stars that are similar to our sun die and become the basic building blocks for the next generation of stars and planets.
According to existing stellar evolution models, sunlike stars—those that are similar in size and chemical composition to our sun—swell to become so-called red giants in their final stage of life, before losing their atmospheres in a spectacular bubble of gas and dust.
This fate awaits our own sun in four to five billion years, scientists say.
The final period in a sunlike star's life, when stars make their greatest contribution to the universe, is known as the asymptotic giant branch (AGB).
"They puff off all their outer layers of gas and dust, enriching