Viewpoint: Neutron-Star Implosions as Heavy-Element Sources

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Viewpoint: Neutron-Star Implosions as Heavy-Element Sources

  • Hans-Thomas Janka, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 1, D-85748 Garching, Germany

August 7, 2017• Physics 10, 89

A dramatic scenario in which a compact black hole eats a spinning neutron star from inside might explain a nearby galaxy’s unexpectedly high abundance of heavy elements.


Figure 1: Fuller et al. [3] propose a model for the synthesis of heavy elements in which a rapidly rotating neutron star is swallowed from the inside by a tiny black hole. The centrifugally deformed star, shown in cross-section, sheds considerable mass at its equator as it spins up and angular momentum is transferred outward. Heavy atomic nuclei, including gold and platinum, can form via the r-process in the neutron-rich matter that’s expelled from the imploding star.

The lightest of the chemical elements—hydrogen, helium, and lithium—were created in the hot, early phase of the Universe, about a minute after the big bang. Heavier elements were forged later—in the nuclear fires of many generations of stars and during supernova explosions [1]. But the origin of many rare chemical species, particularly the heaviest elements, remains uncertain. In particular, recent observations [2] of a nearby galaxy enriched with heavy elements challenge traditional nucleosynthesis models. George Fuller of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues [3] now propose a novel scenario for the origin of the heaviest elements, including gold, platinum, and uranium. Their hypothesis involves tiny black holes inducing neutron-star implosions and, if viable, would in one fell swoop offer solutions to other astrophysical riddles beyond heavy element synthesis.

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This article and images were originally posted on [Physics – spotlighting exceptional research] August 11, 2017 at 03:39PM

Credit to Author and Physics – spotlighting exceptional research





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