1 Max Plack Institute for Astrophysics, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 1, 857 41 Garching bei München, Germany
2 Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0HA, UK
3 Departamento de Astronomia do IAG/USP, Universidade de São Paulo, Rua do Matão 1226, Cidade Universitària, 05508-900 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
4 Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Australian National University, Cotter Road, Weston Creek, ACT 2611, Australia
Received: 4 March 2013
Accepted: 24 May 2013
Context. Un-evolved, very metal-poor stars are the most important tracers of the cosmic abundance of lithium in the early universe. Combining the standard Big Bang nucleosynthesis model with Galactic production through cosmic ray spallation, these stars at [Fe / H] < − 2 are expected to show an undetectably small 6Li / 7Li isotopic signature. Evidence to the contrary may necessitate an additional pre-galactic production source or a revision of the standard model of Big Bang nucleosynthesis. It would also cast doubts on Li depletion from stellar atmospheres as an explanation for the factor 3–5 discrepancy between the predicted primordial 7Li from the Big Bang and the observed value in metal-poor dwarf/turn-off stars.
Aims. We revisit the isotopic analysis of four halo stars, two with claimed 6Li-detections in the literature, to investigate the influence of improved model atmospheres and line formation treatment.
Methods. For the first time, a combined 3D, non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (NLTE) modelling technique for Li, Na, and Ca lines is utilised to constrain the intrinsic line-broadening and to determine the Li isotopic ratio. We discuss the influence of 3D NLTE effects on line profile shapes and assess the realism of our modelling using the Ca excitation and ionisation balance.
Results. By accounting for NLTE line formation in realistic 3D hydrodynamical model atmospheres, we can model the Li resonance line and other neutral lines with a consistency that is superior to LTE, with no need for additional line asymmetry caused by the presence of 6Li. Contrary to the results from 1D and 3D LTE modelling, no star in our sample has a significant (2σ) detection of the lighter isotope in NLTE. Over a large parameter space, NLTE modelling systematically reduces the best-fit Li isotopic ratios by up to five percentage points. As a bi-product, we also present the first ever 3D NLTE Ca and Na abundances of halo stars, which reveal significant departures from LTE.
Conclusions. The observational support for a significant and non-standard 6Li production source in the early universe is substantially weakened by our findings.
Key words: stars: abundances / stars: Population II / primordial nucleosynthesis / techniques: spectroscopic / line: profiles / line: formation
Appendix A is available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
The reduced spectra in the region around the Li line are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (184.108.40.206) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/554/A96
© ESO, 2013