Fr.: mélange thermohaline
In stars, an instability phenomenon, reminiscent of the → thermohaline convection in the oceans, that takes place when layers of higher molecular weight occur above a region of lower molecular weight. A situation of heavier material being above lighter gas in a star can occur during the → helium flash when → helium burning does not start in the center but in the shell. Similarly, in → close binary systems it may happen that helium-rich material is transferred to a → main sequence star. Then a helium-rich outer layer is formed and the instability occurs at the interface between that layer and the original stellar material. This process can explain several surface abundance variations in stars. First discussed by S. Kato (1966, Publ. Astron. Soc. Japan 18, 374).