The fundamental role of fission during r-process nucleosynthesis in neutron star mergers
Institut d’Astronomie et d’Astrophysique, CP-226, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1050, Brussels, Belgium
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Revised: 12 February 2015
Accepted: 13 February 2015
Published online: 27 February 2015
The rapid neutron-capture process, or r-process, is known to be of fundamental importance for explaining the origin of approximately half of the A > 60 stable nuclei observed in nature. Despite important efforts, the astrophysical site of the r-process remains unidentified. Here we study r-process nucleosynthesis in a material that is dynamically ejected by tidal and pressure forces during the merging of binary neutron stars. r-process nucleosynthesis during the decompression is known to be largely insensitive to the detailed astrophysical conditions because of efficient fission recycling, producing a composition that closely follows the solar r-abundance distribution for nuclei with mass numbers A > 140. Due to the important role played by fission in such a scenario, the impact of fission is carefully analyzed. We consider different state-of-the-art global models for the determination of the fission paths, nuclear level densities at the fission saddle points and fission fragment distributions. Based on such models, the sensitivity of the calculated r-process abundance distribution is studied. The fission path is found to strongly affect the region of heavy nuclei responsible for the fission recycling, while the fission fragment distribution of nuclei along the A ≃ 278 isobars defines the abundance pattern of nuclei produced in the 110 ≲ A ≲ 170 region. The late capture of prompt fission neutrons is also shown to affect the abundance distribution, and in particular the shape of the third r-process peak around A ≃ 195.
© SIF, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2015