Nuclear astrophysics

Nuclear physics and astronomy are inextricably intertwined. In fact, more than ever, astronomical discoveries are driving the frontiers of nuclear physics while our knowledge of nuclei is driving progress in understanding the universe.

Because of its powerful technical capabilities, FRIB will forge tighter links between the two disciplines. Rare isotopes play a critical role in the evolution of stars and other cosmic phenomena such as novae and supernovae, but up to now the most interesting rare isotopes have been largely out of the reach of terrestrial experiments. FRIB will provide access to most of the rare isotopes important in these astrophysical processes, thus allowing scientists to address questions such as:

  • How did visible matter come into being and how does it evolve?

  • Where do the chemical elements come from, and how did they evolve?

  • How does structure (e.g. starts, galaxies, galaxy clusters, and supermassive black holes) arise in the universe, and how is this related to the emergence of the elements in starts and explosive processes?

  • What is the nature of matter at extreme temperatures and densities? How do neutrinos and neutrino masses affect element synthesis and structure creation in the history of the universe?

  • What is dark matter, and how does it influence or is it influenced by nuclear burning and explosive stellar phenomena?

Recent astronomical missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey have provided new and detailed information on element synthesis, stellar explosions, and neutron stars over a wide range of wavelengths. However, scientists attempting to interpret these observations have been constrained by the lack of information on the physics of unstable nuclei.

FRIB and future astronomy missions will complement each other and provide a potent combination of tools to discover answers to important questions that confront the field.

Source: 2015 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science