Physics Colloquium Series: Professor Rebecca Surman
(Physics Lecture Series) University of Notre Dame, Department of Physics
“Forging the Heaviest Elements”
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 don’t know 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 synthesized via rapid neutron captures in the r-process of nucleosynthesis. Exactly where the appropriate astrophysical conditions for the r- process exist, however, is still uncertain. Here we will discuss two attractive potential sites – core-collapse supernovae and neutron star mergers – and describe how progress in open issues in neutrino and nuclear physics may be the key to unlocking this longstanding mystery.