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Contamination of the Th II line and the age of the Galaxy


THE age of the Galaxy may be estimated from observations of the ratio of stellar abundances of thorium, which has only one long-lived isotope with a half-life comparable to the suspected age of the Galaxy, and neodymium, a stable element. The Th/Nd abundance ratio in a sample of G-dwarf stars of different ages was derived by Butcher1 from the intensities of one Th II and one Nd II absorption line, and indicated a rather young galactic age of 9.6 Gyr. But the Th II line is blended with a Co I line. Here we determine the transition probability of the Co I line by combining radiative lifetime and branching-ratio measurements. We show that the Co I contribution cannot be neglected in deriving Th/Nd ratios. By comparing our results with predictions based on models of galactic chemical evolution, we suggest a revised age of the Galaxy of 15–20 Gyr.

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Lawler, J., Whaling, W. & Grevesse, N. Contamination of the Th II line and the age of the Galaxy. Nature 346, 635–637 (1990).

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