The r-process nucleosynthesis and related challenges
1 Institut d’Astronomie et d’Astrophysique, Université Libre de Bruxelles, CP 226, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
2 Heidelberger Institut fr Theoretische Studien, Schloss-Wolfsbrunnenweg 35, 69118 Heidelberg, Germany
3 Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, Postfach 1317, 85741 Garching, Germany
4 Astrophysical Big Bang Laboratory, RIKEN, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako, Saitama, 351-0198, Japan
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Published online: 30 December 2017
The rapid neutron-capture process, or r-process, is known to be of fundamental importance for explaining the origin of approximately half of the A > 60 stable nuclei observed in nature. Recently, special attention has been paid to neutron star (NS) mergers following the confirmation by hydrodynamic simulations that a non-negligible amount of matter can be ejected and by nucleosynthesis calculations combined with the predicted astrophysical event rate that such a site can account for the majority of r-material in our Galaxy. We show here that the combined contribution of both the dynamical (prompt) ejecta expelled during binary NS or NS-black hole (BH) mergers and the neutrino and viscously driven outflows generated during the post-merger remnant evolution of relic BH-torus systems can lead to the production of r-process elements from mass number A ≳ 90 up to actinides. The corresponding abundance distribution is found to reproduce the solar distribution extremely well. It can also account for the elemental distributions observed in low-metallicity stars. However, major uncertainties still affect our understanding of the composition of the ejected matter. These concern (i) the β-interactions of electron (anti)neutrinos with free neutrons and protons, as well as their inverse reactions, which may affect the neutron-richness of the matter at the early phase of the ejection, and (ii) the nuclear physics of exotic neutron-rich nuclei, including nuclear structure as well as nuclear interaction properties, which impact the calculated abundance distribution. Both aspects are discussed in the light of recent hydrodynamical simulations of NS mergers and microscopic calculations of nuclear decay and reaction probabilities.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2017
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