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Star’s atmospheres can also be altered, either (in the case of extremely low mass stars) through mixing of internally enriched materials, or via mass transfer from a nearby star (where mass transfer may be just a nearby red supergiant undergoing normal mass loss that falls onto the star being observed).

Obtaining and quantifying the data aren’t the only difficulties.

Stars are created out of recycled materials, and one star may have had a dozen different types of supernovae, each with their own element distributions, in its ancestry.

They were able to determine age estimations using 7 different atomic ratios.

Having done my own painful share of isotopic measurements, my hat is totally off to these guys for this clean bit of science.

Only one element is required to get a rough estimate of how old a star is – in fact carbon dating uses just the element Carbon-14 to measure the age of old organic materials – but more reliable results come from looking at more then one element.

This technique was recently used to identify a star likely from about the first generation of low mass stars, that was born roughly 13.2 billion years.

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