Astrophysical Alchemy: The Mysterious Origins Of The Heaviest Elements

Dr. Rebecca Surman (hosted by Ogilvie), University of Notre Dame
March 29, 2017 at 4:00 pm
204 Crow
Event Description 

While the origins of the light (hydrogen, helium) and intermediate mass (carbon through iron) elements found in our solar system are well understood, we still are not sure where roughly half of the elements heavier than iron were made. From the solar system abundance pattern of these nuclei, we can tell they were made in an extreme neutron-rich environment. Where such unusual conditions could be found in the galaxy, however, is still uncertain. Possibilities include the deaths of massive stars in supernova explosions or the collisions of two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole. Here we will review the characteristics of these possible sites and describe how heavy element synthesis could proceed in each. Then we will discuss how the next generation of nuclear physics experiments can play a key role in solving this longstanding mystery.

Coffee: 3:30 pm, 245 Compton