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r-Process Radioisotopes from Near-Earth Supernovae and Kilonovae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Xilu Wang, Adam M. Clark, John Ellis, Adrienne F. Ertel, Brian D. Fields, Brian J. Fry, Zhenghai Liu, Jesse A. Miller, Rebecca Surman

Original languageEnglish
Article number219
JournalASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL
Volume923
Issue number2
DOIs
Published20 Dec 2021

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Publisher Copyright: © 2021. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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Abstract

The astrophysical sites where r-process elements are synthesized remain mysterious: it is clear that neutron star mergers (kilonovae (KNe)) contribute, and some classes of core-collapse supernovae (SNe) are also possible sources of at least the lighter r-process species. The discovery of 60Fe on the Earth and Moon implies that one or more astrophysical explosions have occurred near the Earth within the last few million years, probably SNe. Intriguingly, 244Pu has now been detected, mostly overlapping with 60Fe pulses. However, the 244Pu flux may extend to before 12 Myr ago, pointing to a different origin. Motivated by these observations and difficulties for r-process nucleosynthesis in SN models, we propose that ejecta from a KN enriched the giant molecular cloud that gave rise to the Local Bubble, where the Sun resides. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements of 244Pu and searches for other live isotopes could probe the origins of the r-process and the history of the solar neighborhood, including triggers for mass extinctions, e.g., that at the end of the Devonian epoch, motivating the calculations of the abundances of live r-process radioisotopes produced in SNe and KNe that we present here. Given the presence of 244Pu, other r-process species such as 93Zr, 107Pd, 129I, 135Cs, 182Hf, 236U, 237Np, and 247Cm should be present. Their abundances and well-resolved time histories could distinguish between the SN and KN scenarios, and we discuss prospects for their detection in deep-ocean deposits and the lunar regolith. We show that AMS 129I measurements in Fe–Mn crusts already constrain a possible nearby KN scenario.

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