Studying the origins of the heavy elements through neutron capture. Aaron Couture, LANL
Understanding how the heavy elements came into being in the universe presents one of the greatest challenges in nuclear physics and astrophysics. For some time we have known that elements beyond iron on the periodic table must have been made through neutron-induced reactions, but the environments where they are made and what they can tell us about this history of our galaxy remain a mystery.
To further our knowledge of both these elements and the environments where they were made challenges us to bring together astronomical observations, astrophysical models, and experimental and theoretical nuclear physics. One piece of this puzzle are measurements of the neutron capture reaction rates, an experimental quantity we can study in laboratories here on earth.
In this talk, I will discuss the needs and motivations for new measurements of neutron capture on both stable and unstable isotopes, the challenges in performing those measurements, and advances we are making as a field to determine these reactions.