Actinides: How well do we know their stellar production?
Institut d'Astronomie et d'Astrophysique, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
Corresponding author: S. Goriely, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 27 September 2001
The reliable evaluation of the r-process production of the actinides and careful estimates of the uncertainties affecting these predictions are key ingredients especially in nucleo-cosmochronology studies based on the analysis of very metal-poor stars or on the composition of meteorites. This type of information is also required in order to make the best possible use of future high precision data on the actinide composition of galactic cosmic rays, of the local interstellar medium, or of meteoritic grains of presumed circumstellar origin. This paper provides the practitioners in these various fields with the most detailed and careful analysis of the r-process actinide production available to-date. This study is based on a version of the multi-event canonical model of the r-process which discards the largely used waiting point approximation. It considers also different combinations of models for the calculation of nuclear masses, β-decay and fission rates. Two variants of the model used to predict nuclear reaction rates are adopted. In addition, the influence of the level of Pb and Bi production by the r-process on the estimated actinide production is evaluated by relying on the solar abundances of these two elements. In total, thirty-two different cases are presented, and are considered to give a fair picture of the level of reliability of the predictions of the actinide production, at least in the framework of a simple r-process model. This simplicity is imposed by our inability to identify the proper astrophysical sites for the r-process. As a guide to the practitioners, constraints on the actinide yield predictions and associated uncertainties are suggested on grounds of the measured abundances of r-nuclides, including Th and U, in the star CS 31082-001, and under the critical and questionable assumption of the "universality" of the r-process. We also define alternative constraints based on the nucleo-cosmochronological results derived from the present actinide content of meteorites. Both sets of constraints suffer from serious problems. The first set does not hold in the likely situation of the non-universality of the r-process. The definition of the second set is made difficult by the necessity of using intricate galactic evolution models in order to interpret the meteoritic data. Our calculations of the actinide production combined with future data on the galactic cosmic ray actinide composition should help confirming that galactic cosmic rays are not fresh supernova ejecta. They should also provide a tool to discriminate between two competing models for the cosmic ray acceleration, one calling for an isolated supernova exploding in the ordinary old interstellar medium, and one envisioning a superbubble instead.
Key words: nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances
© ESO, 2001