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Title: Mass measurements show slowdown of rapid proton capture process at waiting-point nucleus 64Ge
Abstract X-ray bursts are among the brightest stellar objects frequently observed in the sky by space-based telescopes. A type-I X-ray burst is understood as a violent thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a neutron star, accreting matter from a companion star in a binary system. The bursts are powered by a nuclear reaction sequence known as the rapid proton capture process (rp process), which involves hundreds of exotic neutron-deficient nuclides. At so-called waiting-point nuclides, the process stalls until a slower β + decay enables a bypass. One of the handful of rp process waiting-point nuclides is 64 Ge, which plays a decisive role in matter flow and therefore the produced X-ray flux. Here we report precision measurements of the masses of 63 Ge, 64,65 As and 66,67 Se—the relevant nuclear masses around the waiting-point 64 Ge—and use them as inputs for X-ray burst model calculations. We obtain the X-ray burst light curve to constrain the neutron-star compactness, and suggest that the distance to the X-ray burster GS 1826–24 needs to be increased by about 6.5% to match astronomical observations. The nucleosynthesis results affect the thermal structure of accreting neutron stars, which will subsequently modify the calculations of associated observables.  more » « less
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Physics
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1091 to 1097
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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