skip to main content

Title: The radioactive nuclei and in the Cosmos and in the solar system
Abstract The cosmic evolution of the chemical elements from the Big Bang to the present time is driven by nuclear fusion reactions inside stars and stellar explosions. A cycle of matter recurrently re-processes metal-enriched stellar ejecta into the next generation of stars. The study of cosmic nucleosynthesis and this matter cycle requires the understanding of the physics of nuclear reactions, of the conditions at which the nuclear reactions are activated inside the stars and stellar explosions, of the stellar ejection mechanisms through winds and explosions, and of the transport of the ejecta towards the next cycle, from hot plasma to cold, star-forming gas. Due to the long timescales of stellar evolution, and because of the infrequent occurrence of stellar explosions, observational studies are challenging, as they have biases in time and space as well as different sensitivities related to the various astronomical methods. Here, we describe in detail the astrophysical and nuclear-physical processes involved in creating two radioactive isotopes useful in such studies, $^{26}\mathrm{Al}$ and $^{60}\mathrm{Fe}$ . Due to their radioactive lifetime of the order of a million years, these isotopes are suitable to characterise simultaneously the processes of nuclear fusion reactions and of interstellar transport. We describe and discuss more » the nuclear reactions involved in the production and destruction of $^{26}\mathrm{Al}$ and $^{60}\mathrm{Fe}$ , the key characteristics of the stellar sites of their nucleosynthesis and their interstellar journey after ejection from the nucleosynthesis sites. This allows us to connect the theoretical astrophysical aspects to the variety of astronomical messengers presented here, from stardust and cosmic-ray composition measurements, through observation of $\gamma$ rays produced by radioactivity, to material deposited in deep-sea ocean crusts and to the inferred composition of the first solids that have formed in the Solar System. We show that considering measurements of the isotopic ratio of $^{26}\mathrm{Al}$ to $^{60}\mathrm{Fe}$ eliminate some of the unknowns when interpreting astronomical results, and discuss the lessons learned from these two isotopes on cosmic chemical evolution. This review paper has emerged from an ISSI-BJ Team project in 2017–2019, bringing together nuclear physicists, astronomers, and astrophysicists in this inter-disciplinary discussion. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1927130
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10358500
Journal Name:
Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia
Volume:
38
ISSN:
1323-3580
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Radioactive nuclei were present in the early solar system (ESS), as inferred from analysis of meteorites. Many are produced in massive stars, either during their lives or their final explosions. In the first paper of this series (Brinkman et al. 2019), we focused on the production of 26 Al in massive binaries. Here, we focus on the production of another two short-lived radioactive nuclei, 36 Cl and 41 Ca, and the comparison to the ESS data. We used the MESA stellar evolution code with an extended nuclear network and computed massive (10–80 M ⊙ ), rotating (with initial velocities of 150 and 300 km s −1 ) and nonrotating single stars at solar metallicity ( Z = 0.014) up to the onset of core collapse. We present the wind yields for the radioactive isotopes 26 Al, 36 Cl, and 41 Ca, and the stable isotopes 19 F and 22 Ne. In relation to the stable isotopes, we find that only the most massive models, ≥60 and ≥40 M ⊙ give positive 19 F and 22 Ne yields, respectively, depending on the initial rotation rate. In relation to the radioactive isotopes, we find that the ESS abundances of 26 Almore »and 41 Ca can be matched with by models with initial masses ≥40 M ⊙ , while 36 Cl is matched only by our most massive models, ≥60 M ⊙ . 60 Fe is not significantly produced by any wind model, as required by the observations. Therefore, massive star winds are a favored candidate for the origin of the very short-lived 26 Al, 36 Cl, and 41 Ca in the ESS.« less
  2. We investigate the origin in the early Solar System of the short-lived radionuclide 244Pu (with a half life of 80 Myr) produced by the rapid (r) neutron-capture process. We consider two large sets of r-process nucleosynthesis models and analyse if the origin of 244Pu in the ESS is consistent with that of the other r and slow (s) neutron-capture process radioactive nuclei. Uncertainties on the r-process models come from both the nuclear physics input and the astrophysical site. The former strongly affects the ratios of isotopes of close mass (129I/127I, 244Pu/238U, and 247Pu/235U). The 129I/247Cm ratio, instead, which involves isotopes of a very different mass, is much more variable than those listed above and is more affected by the physics of the astrophysical site. We consider possible scenarios for the evolution of the abundances of these radioactive nuclei in the galactic interstellar medium and verify under which scenarios and conditions solutions can be found for the origin of 244Pu that are consistent with the origin of the other isotopes. Solutions are generally found for all the possible different regimes controlled by the interval (δ) between additions from the source to the parcel of interstellar medium gas that ended up inmore »the Solar System, relative to decay timescales. If r-process ejecta in interstellar medium are mixed within a relatively small area (leading to a long δ), we derive that the last event that explains the 129I and 247Cm abundances in the early Solar System can also account for the abundance of 244Pu. Due to its longer half life, however, 244Pu may have originated from a few events instead of one only. If r-process ejecta in interstellar medium are mixed within a relatively large area (leading to a short δ), we derive that the time elapsed from the formation of the molecular cloud to the formation of the Sun was 9-16 Myr.« less
  3. Abstract The astrophysical sites where r -process elements are synthesized remain mysterious: it is clear that neutron star mergers (kilonovae (KNe)) contribute, and some classes of core-collapse supernovae (SNe) are also possible sources of at least the lighter r -process species. The discovery of 60 Fe on the Earth and Moon implies that one or more astrophysical explosions have occurred near the Earth within the last few million years, probably SNe. Intriguingly, 244 Pu has now been detected, mostly overlapping with 60 Fe pulses. However, the 244 Pu flux may extend to before 12 Myr ago, pointing to a different origin. Motivated by these observations and difficulties for r -process nucleosynthesis in SN models, we propose that ejecta from a KN enriched the giant molecular cloud that gave rise to the Local Bubble, where the Sun resides. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements of 244 Pu and searches for other live isotopes could probe the origins of the r -process and the history of the solar neighborhood, including triggers for mass extinctions, e.g., that at the end of the Devonian epoch, motivating the calculations of the abundances of live r -process radioisotopes produced in SNe and KNe that we present here.more »Given the presence of 244 Pu, other r -process species such as 93 Zr, 107 Pd, 129 I, 135 Cs, 182 Hf, 236 U, 237 Np, and 247 Cm should be present. Their abundances and well-resolved time histories could distinguish between the SN and KN scenarios, and we discuss prospects for their detection in deep-ocean deposits and the lunar regolith. We show that AMS 129 I measurements in Fe–Mn crusts already constrain a possible nearby KN scenario.« less
  4. Radioactive nuclei are the key to understanding the circumstances of the birth of our Sun because meteoritic analysis has proven that many of them were present at that time. Their origin, however, has been so far elusive. The ERC-CoG-2016 RADIOSTAR project is dedicated to investigating the production of radioactive nuclei by nuclear reactions inside stars, their evolution in the Milky Way Galaxy, and their presence in molecular clouds. So far, we have discovered that: (i) radioactive nuclei produced by slow (107Pd and 182Hf) and rapid (129I and 247Cm) neutron captures originated from stellar sources —asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars and compact binary mergers, respectively—within the galactic environment that predated the formation of the molecular cloud where the Sun was born; (ii) the time that elapsed from the birth of the cloud to the birth of the Sun was of the order of 107 years, and (iii) the abundances of the very short-lived nuclei 26Al, 36Cl, and 41Ca can be explained by massive star winds in single or binary systems, if these winds directly polluted the early Solar System. Our current and future work, as required to finalise the picture of the origin of radioactive nuclei in the Solar System, involvesmore »studying the possible origin of radioactive nuclei in the early Solar System from core-collapse supernovae, investigating the production of 107Pd in massive star winds, modelling the transport and mixing of radioactive nuclei in the galactic and molecular cloud medium, and calculating the galactic chemical evolution of 53Mn and 60Fe and of the p-process isotopes 92Nb and 146Sm.« less
  5. Context. The 26 Al short-lived radioactive nuclide is the source of the observed galactic diffuse γ -ray emission at 1.8 MeV. While different sources of 26 Al have been explored, such as asymptotic giant branch stars, massive stellar winds, and supernovae, the contribution of very massive stars has not been studied so far. Aims. We study the contribution of the stellar wind of very massive stars, here, stars with initial masses between 150 and 300 M ⊙ , to the enrichment in 26 Al of the galactic interstellar medium. Methods. We studied the production of 26 Al by studying rotating and non-rotating very massive stellar models with initial masses between 150 and 300 M ⊙ for metallicities Z  = 0.006, 0.014, and 0.020. We compared this result to a simple Milky Way model and took the metallicity and the star formation rate gradients into account. Results. We obtain that very massive stars in the Z  = 0.006 − 0.020 metallicity range might be very significant contributors to the 26 Al enrichment of the interstellar medium. Typically, the contribution of the winds of massive stars to the total quantity of 26 Al in the Galaxy increases by 150% when very massive stars are considered. Conclusions.more »Despite their rarity, very massive stars might be important contributors to 26 Al and might overall be very important actors for nucleosynthesis in the Galaxy.« less