Physics Colloquium

"From Stars to Nuclei and Back: Our Cosmic Origin and the Exascale Challenge to Find It"

Presented by Tony Mezzacappa, University of Tennessee

Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 3:30 pm — Large Seminar Room, Bldg. 510

We learn in elementary school that the elements in the Periodic Table are the building blocks of our world, including our very bodies. But from where do the elements come? This is among the most basic questions we can ask, yet the precise answer remains elusive. We witness the cycle of life in our daily lives, everywhere on Earth. This is no less true in the Universe. With the exception of the lightest elements such as hydrogen and helium, elements are made in stars. As stars evolve and die, these elements pepper the interstellar medium, from which new stars, and planets, – in particular, our solar system – form. We understand the essential elements of this cycle – from stellar birth, life, and death, to the formation of the elements, to the formation of new stars and planets including those elements, to ultimately the origin of our solar system and life on Earth given those elements. But pieces of the puzzle are missing. We do not yet understand how certain stars that are factories for many of the elements, die, nor do we know the precise origin of half the elements heavier than iron, although we have narrowed down the list of possible sites. Today's colloquium will focus on the death of massive stars in catastrophic explosions known as core collapse supernovae. Such supernovae provide the lion's share of the elements between oxygen and iron, and are considered a potential site for the origin of half the elements heavier than iron. Arguably, they are the single most important source of elements in the Universe. Such supernovae present us with a general relativistic, radiation magneto-hydrodynamic – i.e., a multi-physics – environment to model. Further richness and complexity is added by the fact that the macroscopic evolution of such a system is governed in no small part by the high-density, neutron-rich, nuclear matter at the core of the supernova and by the microscopic interaction of radiation in the form of neutrinos with th

Hosted by: Peter Petreczky

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