Open Questions in Stellar Helium Burning Addressed With Real Photons

Moshe Gai

Submitted on 20 March 2003


The outcome of helium burning is the formation of the two elements, carbon and oxygen. The ratio of carbon to oxygen at the end of helium burning is crucial for understanding the final fate of a progenitor star and the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements in Type II supernova, with oxygen rich star predicted to collapse to a black hole, and a carbon rich star to a neutron star. Type Ia supernovae (SNeIa) are used as standard candles for measuring cosmological distances with the use of an empirical light curve-luminosity stretching factor. It is essential to understand helium burning that yields the carbon/oxygen white dwarf and thus the initial stage of SNeIa. Since the triple alpha-particle capture reaction, 8Be(α,γ)12C, the first burning stage in helium burning, is well understood, one must extract the cross section of the 12C(α,γ)16O reaction at the Gamow window (300 keV) with high accuracy of approximately 10% or better. This goal has not been achieved despite repeated strong statements that appeared in the literature. In particular constraint from the beta-delayed alpha-particle emission of 16N were shown to not sufficiently restrict the p-wave cross section factor; e.g. a low value of SE1(300) can not be ruled out. Measurements at low energies, are thus mandatory for determining the elusive cross section factor for the 12C(α,γ)16O reaction. We are constructing a Time Projection Chamber (TPC) for use with high intensity photon beams extracted from the HIγS/TUNL facility at Duke University to study the 16O(γ,α)12C reaction, and thus the direct reaction at energies as low as 0.7 MeV. This work is in progress.


Comment: Int. Conf. Fission and Neutron-Rich Nuclei, Sanibel, Florida, Nov 6-9, 2002

Subjects: Nuclear Experiment; Astrophysics; Condensed Matter; Nuclear Theory