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Nature. 2005 Jun 30;435(7046):1203-5.

The U/Th production ratio and the age of the Milky Way from meteorites and Galactic halo stars.

Author information

1
Origins Laboratory, Department of the Geophysical Sciences, Enrico Fermi Institute, and Chicago Center for Cosmochemistry, The University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago Illinois 60637, USA. dauphas@uchicago.edu

Abstract

Some heavy elements (with atomic number A > 69) are produced by the 'rapid' (r)-process of nucleosynthesis, where lighter elements are bombarded with a massive flux of neutrons. Although this is characteristic of supernovae and neutron star mergers, uncertainties in where the r-process occurs persist because stellar models are too crude to allow precise quantification of this phenomenon. As a result, there are many uncertainties and assumptions in the models used to calculate the production ratios of actinides (like uranium-238 and thorium-232). Current estimates of the U/Th production ratio range from approximately 0.4 to 0.7. Here I show that the U/Th abundance ratio in meteorites can be used, in conjunction with observations of low-metallicity stars in the halo of the Milky Way, to determine the U/Th production ratio very precisely (0.57(+0.037)(-0.031). This value can be used in future studies to constrain the possible nuclear mass formulae used in r-process calculations, to help determine the source of Galactic cosmic rays, and to date circumstellar grains. I also estimate the age of the Milky Way (14.5(+2.8)(-2.2)Gyr in a way that is independent of the uncertainties associated with fluctuations in the microwave background or models of stellar evolution.

PMID:
15988518
DOI:
10.1038/nature03645

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