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Title: Origin of the heavy elements in binary neutron-star mergers from a gravitational-wave event

Abstract

The cosmic origin of elements heavier than iron has long been uncertain. Theoretical modelling shows that the matter that is expelled in the violent merger of two neutron stars can assemble into heavy elements such as gold and platinum in a process known as rapid neutron capture (r-process) nucleosynthesis. The radioactive decay of isotopes of the heavy elements is predicted to power a distinctive thermal glow (a ‘kilonova’). The discovery of an electromagnetic counterpart to the gravitational-wave source GW170817 represents the first opportunity to detect and scrutinize a sample of freshly synthesized r-process elements. Here we report models that predict the electromagnetic emission of kilonovae in detail and enable the mass, velocity and composition of ejecta to be derived from observations. We compare the models to the optical and infrared radiation associated with the GW170817 event to argue that the observed source is a kilonova. We infer the presence of two distinct components of ejecta, one composed primarily of light (atomic mass number less than 140) and one of heavy (atomic mass number greater than 140) r-process elements. The ejected mass and a merger rate inferred from GW170817 imply that such mergers are a dominant mode of r-process production inmore » the Universe.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [2];  [3];  [4]
  1. Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States). Depts. of Physics and Astronomy; Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States). Nuclear Science Division
  2. Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States). Dept. of Physics and Columbia Astrophysics Lab.
  3. Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States). Depts. of Physics and Astronomy
  4. Univ. of Santa Cruz, CA (United States). Dept. of Astronomy; Univ. of Copenhagen (Denmark). The Niels Bohr Inst.
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States). National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), High Energy Physics (HEP); USDOE Office of Science (SC), Nuclear Physics (NP)
OSTI Identifier:
1489276
DOE Contract Number:  
SC0008067; SC0017616; AC02-05CH11231; SC0018297
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Nature (London)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 551; Journal Issue: 80; Journal ID: ISSN 0028-0836
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Kasen, Daniel, Metzger, Brian, Barnes, Jennifer, Quataert, Eliot, and Ramirez-Ruiz, Enrico. Origin of the heavy elements in binary neutron-star mergers from a gravitational-wave event. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1038/nature24453.
Kasen, Daniel, Metzger, Brian, Barnes, Jennifer, Quataert, Eliot, & Ramirez-Ruiz, Enrico. Origin of the heavy elements in binary neutron-star mergers from a gravitational-wave event. United States. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature24453
Kasen, Daniel, Metzger, Brian, Barnes, Jennifer, Quataert, Eliot, and Ramirez-Ruiz, Enrico. 2017. "Origin of the heavy elements in binary neutron-star mergers from a gravitational-wave event". United States. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature24453.
@article{osti_1489276,
title = {Origin of the heavy elements in binary neutron-star mergers from a gravitational-wave event},
author = {Kasen, Daniel and Metzger, Brian and Barnes, Jennifer and Quataert, Eliot and Ramirez-Ruiz, Enrico},
abstractNote = {The cosmic origin of elements heavier than iron has long been uncertain. Theoretical modelling shows that the matter that is expelled in the violent merger of two neutron stars can assemble into heavy elements such as gold and platinum in a process known as rapid neutron capture (r-process) nucleosynthesis. The radioactive decay of isotopes of the heavy elements is predicted to power a distinctive thermal glow (a ‘kilonova’). The discovery of an electromagnetic counterpart to the gravitational-wave source GW170817 represents the first opportunity to detect and scrutinize a sample of freshly synthesized r-process elements. Here we report models that predict the electromagnetic emission of kilonovae in detail and enable the mass, velocity and composition of ejecta to be derived from observations. We compare the models to the optical and infrared radiation associated with the GW170817 event to argue that the observed source is a kilonova. We infer the presence of two distinct components of ejecta, one composed primarily of light (atomic mass number less than 140) and one of heavy (atomic mass number greater than 140) r-process elements. The ejected mass and a merger rate inferred from GW170817 imply that such mergers are a dominant mode of r-process production in the Universe.},
doi = {10.1038/nature24453},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1489276}, journal = {Nature (London)},
issn = {0028-0836},
number = 80,
volume = 551,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {10}
}

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