George Howard Herbig


US astronomer who specialized in spectroscopic research into irregular variable stars, notably those of the T Tauri group. He also worked on binary stars.
Herbig was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, and educated at the University of California. In 1944, he became a member of the staff at the Lick Observatory, California, rising to professor 1966.
Herbig's main area of research was the nebular variables of which the prototype is T Tauri. It is believed that the members of this group are in an early stage of stellar evolution. Most of them are red and fluctuate in light intensity. In 1960, Herbig drew attention to the fact that many of them have a predominance of lithium lines, similar to the abundance of this element on Earth and in meteorites, and concluded that this might represent the original level of lithium in the Milky Way. In the Sun and other stars, lithium may have largely been lost through nuclear transformation.
Herbig has also investigated the spectra of atoms and molecules that originate in interstellar space.

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