Neutron Capture and Stellar Synthesis of Heavy Elements

Science  26 May 1967:
Vol. 156, Issue 3778, pp. 1039-1049
DOI: 10.1126/science.156.3778.1039


The neutron buildup processes of heavy-element synthesis in stars have left us a number of tantalizing nuclear clues to the early history of solarsystem material. Considerable illumination of our past history has been achieved through studying the correlations between abundance and neutroncapture cross section. Measurement of these cross sections required the development of new techniques for measuring time of flight of pulsed neutron beams. A clear conclusion is that many of our heavy elements were produced inside stars, which can be thought of as giant fast reactors. Extensions of these capture studies have given a clearer picture of additional. violent processes which produced some heavy elements, particularly thorium and uranium. In addition, the correlations have been used for obtaining an independent measure of the time that has elapsed since the solar-system material was synthesized. Finally, data on capture cross section relative to abundance will enable us to determine rather accurately the solar-system abundances of gaseous, volatile, and highly segregated elements.