Probing primordial and pre-galactic lithium with high-velocity clouds

Tijana Prodanovlć, Brian D. Fields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pre-Galactic abundance of lithium offers a unique window into nonthermal cosmological processes. The primordial Li abundance is guaranteed to be present and probes big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN), while an additional Li component is likely to have been produced by cosmic rays accelerated in large-scale structure formation. Pre-Galactic Li currently can only be observed in low-metallicity Galactic halo stars, but abundance measurements are plagued with systematic uncertainties due to modeling of stellar atmospheres and convection. We propose a new site for measuring pre-Galactic Li: low-metallicity, high-velocity clouds (HVCs), which are likely to be extragalactic gas accreted onto the Milky Way and which already have been found to have deuterium abundances consistent with primordial. An Li observation in such an HVC would provide the first extragalactic Li measurement and could shed new light on the apparent discrepancy between BBN predictions and halo star Li abundance determinations. Furthermore, HVC Li could at the same time test for the presence of nonprimordial Li due to cosmic rays. The observability of elemental and isotopic Li abundances is discussed, and candidate sites are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L115-L118
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004


  • Cosmic rays
  • Cosmology: observations
  • Nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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