The origin of heavy elements

Jonas Lippuner (LANL)

Hydrogen and helium make up 98% of ordinary matter in the universe. These two lightest elements were created in the Big Bang. Stars fuse lighter elements into heavier ones, but this process cannot produce elements heavier than iron. A more exotic process, called neutron capture, is required to synthesize elements beyond iron, such as silver, gold, and uranium. In this talk, I will provide an overview of the origin of the elements with a focus on heavy elements beyond iron. I will provide an introduction to the neutron capture process and discuss the different astrophysical scenarios where it could occur. Finally, I will highlight a recent breakthrough discovery where mankind witnessed the creation of heavy elements for the first time in a galaxy 130 million light years away.

Thursday, April 26, 2018