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Nucleosynthesis and Neutrinos Near Newly Formed Compact Objects

Luke Roberts, Caltech
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
PAA A-102

The origin of the
rapid neutron capture process (r-process) elements remains the biggest
unsolved question in our understanding of the origin of the elements in
the Milky Way. The r-process is responsible for producing
around half of the elements heavier than iron, but the astrophysical site
in which it occurs is still uncertain. The most likely sites
for the formation of these nuclei involve dynamical events in the lives of
neutron stars: the inner most regions of massive stars during core collapse
supernovae and the merger of a neutron star and another compact object.
In both of these environments, neutrinos, nuclear physics, and gravity
play paramount roles in determining the evolution of the dense object itself
and in determining what nuclei are synthesized in material that is ejected
from the system. I will first discuss prospects for the
r-process in the inner most regions core-collapse supernovae. This
part of the talk will focus on my work studying neutrino emission during
core-collapse supernovae, which has constrained the possible modes of
nucleosynthesis in these events. Second, I will discuss nucleosynthesis
in material ejected during binary neutron star mergers and my work predicting
optical transients powered by the decay of ejected radioactive
nuclei. I will highlight some of the uncertainties that exist in
both of these scenarios, and how these uncertainties can be reduced with future
theoretical and computational work with input from current and next generation observational
and experimental facilities.

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