The r-process : Supernovae and other sources of the heaviest elements
Schmidt, K. -H.
Rapid neutron capture in stellar explosions is responsible for the heaviest elements in nature, up to Th, U and beyond. This nucleosynthesis process, the r-process, is unique in the sense that a combination of nuclear physics far from stability (masses, half-lives, neutron-capture and photodisintegration, neutron-induced and beta-delayed fission and last but not least neutrino-nucleus interactions) is intimately linked to ejecta from astrophysical explosions (core collapse supernovae or other neutron star related events). The astrophysics and nuclear physics involved still harbor many uncertainties, either in the extrapolation of nuclear properties far beyond present experimental explorations or in the modeling of multidimensional, general relativistic (neutrino-radiation) hydrodynamics with rotation and possibly required magnetic fields. Observational clues about the working of the r-process are mostly obtained from solar abundances and from the abundance evolution of the heaviest elements as a function of galactic age, as witnessed in old extremely metal-poor stars. They contain information whether the r-process is identical for all stellar events, how abundance features develop with galactic time and whether the frequency of r-process events is comparable to that of average core collapse supernovae-producing oxygen through titanium, as well as iron-group nuclei. The theoretical modeling of the r-process has advanced from simple approaches, where the use of static neutron densities and temperatures can aid to test the influence of nuclear properties far from stability on abundance features, to more realistic expansions with a given entropy, global neutron/proton ratio and expansion time scales, as expected from explosive astrophysical events. The direct modeling in astrophysical events such as supernovae still faces the problem whether the required conditions can be met.