Actinide Production in Neutron Star Mergers: Observation and Theory
Erika Holmbeck from Notre Dame University gives an online seminar “Actinide Production in Neutron Star Mergers: Observation and Theory”.
Abstract: The rapid-neutron-capture ("r") process is responsible for synthesizing many of the heavy elements observed in both the solar system and Galactic metal-poor halo stars. We are conducting an observational survey to increase the number of known r-process-enhanced stars from 25 to 100 to better characterize and understand the r-process. As a direct result of this survey, we have identified the most actinide-enhanced r-II star to date. Simulations of r-process nucleosynthesis can reproduce abundances derived from observations with varying success, but so far fail to account for the actinide boost. We investigate actinide production in the dynamical ejecta of a neutron star merger as an explanation for the actinide boost. We find that actinide production can be so robust in the dynamical ejecta that an additional lanthanide-rich, actinide-poor component is necessary in order to match observations of actinide-boost stars. Our study suggests that while the dynamical ejecta of a neutron star merger is a likely production site for the formation of actinides, a significant contribution from another site or sites (e.g., the neutron star merger accretion disk wind) is required to explain abundances of r-process-enhanced, metal-poor stars.