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Observational Constraints on the Origin of the Rapid Neutron-Capture Process
October 16, 201711:30 am – 12:30 pm (CDT)

Observational Constraints on the Origin of the Rapid Neutron-Capture Process


Timothy Beers (Notre Dame)



Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy

College Station, Texas 77843

Event Details

There are presently some 25 highly r-process-element-enhanced metal-poor (r-II) stars known in the Galactic halo, roughly thirty years after their first recognition. These stars exhibit enhancements of their r-processelement to iron ratios, relative to Solar ratios, by a factor of 10 to 100+ ([r-element/Fe] > +1.0). Despite their very low metallicities ([Fe/H < -2.0), these stars exhibit an apparently universal [r-element/Fe] pattern that is very well-matched to the Solar r-process pattern. As such, they have long been thought to provide fundamental information on the likely astrophysical site of the r-process. I report on a comparison of the observed properties of field r-II stars with the remarkable recent detection of a large sample of r-II stars identified in the Ultra Faint Dwarf (UFD) galaxy Reticulum-II, and suggest that the UFD environment is the natural birthplace of essentially all r-II stars – due to their relative rarity, the clear overlap in metallicity of the field r-II stars with that of UFDs, and the observed range in the absolute abundances of r-process elements in such stars. Other recent observational constraints, including the demonstration that the formation of r-II stars does not rely on the presence of a binary companion, will be described. A new, much-expanded effort to dramatically increase the numbers of known r-II stars in the halo is now underway, and will also be discussed.

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