The Astrophysical R-process: What We Are Learning From Gravitational Waves, Dwarf Galaxies, And Stellar Archaeology

Tuesday March 12, 2019 4:00 pm

1/24/14 Astronomy headshots

Understanding the origin of the elements is one of the major challenges of modern astrophysics. The rapid neutron-capture process, or r-process, is one of the fundamental ways that stars produce the elements listed along the bottom two-thirds of the periodic table, but key aspects of the r-process are still poorly understood. I will describe four major advances in the last few years that have succeeded in confirming neutron star mergers as an important site of the r-process. These include the detection of freshly produced r-process material powering the kilonova associated with the merger of neutron stars detected via gravitational waves (GW170817), the identification of a dwarf galaxy where most of the stars are highly enhanced in r-process elements (Reticulum II), new connections between the r-process and its Galactic environment (thanks to data from the Gaia satellite), and advances in deriving abundances of previously-undetected r-process elements (such as Se, Te, Pt) in ultraviolet and optical spectra of metal-poor stars. I will highlight opportunities to connect these research directions with future facilities (like FRIB, CETUS, and HabEx) to associate specific physics with specific sites of the r-process.


Event Contact

Debbie Meinbresse