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Heavy-element production in a compact object merger observed by JWST

Levan, Andrew; Gompertz, Benjamin P; Salafia, Om Sharan; Bulla, Mattia; Burns, Eric; Hotokezaka, Kenta; Izzo, Luca; ... Kann, David Alexander; + view all (2024) Heavy-element production in a compact object merger observed by JWST. Nature , 626 pp. 737-741. 10.1038/s41586-023-06759-1. Green open access

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Abstract

The mergers of binary compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes are of central interest to several areas of astrophysics, including as the progenitors of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs)1, sources of high-frequency gravitational waves (GW)2 and likely production sites for heavy element nucleosynthesis via rapid neutron capture (the r-process)3. Here we present observations of the exceptionally bright gamma-ray burst GRB 230307A. We show that GRB 230307A belongs to the class of long-duration gamma-ray bursts associated with compact object mergers4-6, and contains a kilonova similar to AT2017gfo, associated with the gravitational-wave merger GW1708177-12. We obtained James Webb Space Telescope mid-infrared (mid-IR) imaging and spectroscopy 29 and 61 days after the burst. The spectroscopy shows an emission line at 2.15 microns which we interpret as tellurium (atomic mass A=130), and a very red source, emitting most of its light in the mid-IR due to the production of lanthanides. These observations demonstrate that nucleosynthesis in GRBs can create r-process elements across a broad atomic mass range and play a central role in heavy element nucleosynthesis across the Universe.

Type: Article
Title: Heavy-element production in a compact object merger observed by JWST
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06759-1
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06759-1
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Compact astrophysical objects, High-energy astrophysics
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Space and Climate Physics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10180987
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