Astronomers have announced the discovery of huge quantities of an unusual variety of oxygen in two very rare types of stars. The finding suggests that the origin of these oddball stars may lie in the physics behind the mergers of white dwarf star pairs.
The unusual stars are known as hydrogen-deficient (HdC) and R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars. Both types have almost no hydrogen - an element that makes up about 90% of most stars. Surprisingly, they contain up to a thousand times more of the isotope oxygen-18 than normal stars like our Sun. The discovery of abnormal quantities of oxygen-18 is based on near-infrared spectroscopic observations from the Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) on the 8-meter Gemini-South telescope in Chile.