Subcategory: Astronomy and Astrophysics
Ayman Abdullah-Smoot - Texas Southern University
Co-Author(s): Isaac Yandow, Michigan State University; 220 Trowbridge Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824 Ryan Ringle, National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory; 640 S Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824 Adrian Valverde, Notre Dame University; Notre Dame, IN 46556 Georg Bollen, Facility For Rare Isotope Beams; 640 S Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824 Daniel Burdette, Notre Dame University; Notre Dame, IN 46556 Alec Hamaker, Michigan State University; 220 Trowbridge Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824 Kasey Lund, National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory; 640 S Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824 Daniel Puentes, Michigan State University 220; Trowbridge Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824 Rachel Sandler, Central Michigan University; 1200 S Franklin St, Mt Pleasant, MI 48859 Stefan Schwarz, National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory; 640 S Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824 Chandana Sumithrarachchi, National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory; 640 S Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824
X-ray bursts are astronomical explosions that occur when a neutron star takes hydrogen and helium particles from its companion star in a process called accretion. These accreted particles collect on the surface of the neutron star leading to thermonuclear runaway, resulting in an X-ray burst which creates heavier elements via the rapid proton capture process (rp-process). The rp-process occurs when nuclear reactions cause stable nuclides to gain protons and beta decay, forming new elements. The path of the rp-process, the order in which reactions occur, can be studied by examining light curves of individual X-ray bursts. Light curves measure an X-ray burst?s luminosity over its duration. By creating an accurate light curve simulation and comparing it to the actual light curve, X-ray bursts can be studied; furthering knowledge on the elements that are created during a burst. In order to create accurate simulations, the mass of all elements involved in the rp-process must first be known and their mass uncertainties must be small enough so that there is a negligible effect on the light curve simulation. For the extremely short-lived phosphorus-27 (27P), the measured mass is not very precise and thus has too large of an uncertainty creating a significant knowledge gap in the plotting of the light curve simulation. We believe that we can find an accurate mass measurement of 27P with a small enough uncertainty that allows us to accurately create a light curve simulation. We measured this mass using a continuous beam of 27P and a Penning trap mass spectrometer. By scanning across multiple frequencies that were inputted into the spectrometer we found the frequency that yielded the fastest time of flight of 27P particles and used it to calculate 27P?s mass. From our calculations, we found a mass measurement that was 40 times more precise than the previously recorded mass measurement and discovered a much smaller mass uncertainty. With these calculations, a light curve simulation can be accurately created, which can ultimately be used by nuclear astrophysicists studying X-ray bursts to better understand the path of the rp-process. This new knowledge will help nuclear astrophysicists determine what remaining reactions must be studied to fully understand the order in which elements are created during X-ray bursts.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): The lab in which this experiment was conducted is partially funded by the National Science Foundation and by Michigan State University. My participation in this experiment was funded by the Michigan State University Summer Research Opportunites Program.
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Ryan Ringle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: I analyzed the data after the experiment was completed to ensure that our calculations were correct.