Steady-state nucleosynthesis throughout the Galaxy
Krause, Martin G. H.
Pleintinger, Moritz M. M.
The measurement and astrophysical interpretation of characteristic γ-ray lines from nucleosynthesis was one of the prominent science goals of the INTEGRAL mission and in particular its spectrometer SPI. Emission from 26Al and from 60Fe decay lines, due to their My decay times, originates from accumulated ejecta of nucleosynthesis sources, and appears diffuse in nature. 26Al and 60Fe are believed to originate mostly from massive star clusters. The radioactive decay γ-ray observations open an interesting window to trace the fate and flow of nucleosynthesis ejecta, after they have left the immediate sources and their birth sites, and on their path to mix with ambient interstellar gas. The 26Al emission image obtained with INTEGRAL confirms earlier findings of clumpiness and an extent along the entire plane of the Galaxy, supporting its origin from massive-star groups. INTEGRAL spectroscopy resolved the line and found Doppler broadenings and systematic shifts with longitude, originating from large-scale galactic rotation. But an excess velocity of 200 km s −1 suggests that 26Al decays preferentially within large superbubbles that extend in forward directions between spiral arms. The detection of 26Al line emission from the nearby Orion clusters in the Eridanus superbubble supports this interpretation. Positrons from β + decays of 26Al and other nucleosynthesis ejecta have been found to not explain the morphology of positron annihilation γ-rays at 511 keV that have been measured by INTEGRAL. The 60Fe signal measured by INTEGRAL is diffuse but too weak for an imaging interpretation, an origin from point-like/concentrated sources is excluded. The 26Al / 60Fe ratio is constrained to a range 0.2–0.4. Beyond improving precision of these results, diffuse nucleosynthesis contributions from novae (through 22Na radioactivity) and from past neutron star mergers in our Galaxy (from r-process radioactivity) are exciting new prospects for the remaining mission extensions.