University of Heidelberg

11th Symposium on Nuclei in the Cosmos (NIC XI)
Heidelberg, 19-23 July 2010

Scientific rationale

Considerable progress has recently been made towards answering some of the fundamental questions in nuclear astrophysics. For example, the development of multidimensional supernova models opened a very promising path towards finally understanding the explosion mechanism(s) of supernovae, and improved treatment of weak interaction rates has lead to major advances in predictions of explosive nucleosynthesis. Owing to the availability of three-dimensional hydrodynamical model atmospheres of cool stars as well as non-local thermodynamical equilibrium line formation calculations and improved atomic data for an increased number of elements, these predictions can now be compared with more accurate abundances of extremely metal-poor and hence old stars, in which e.g. the products of Big Bang and neutron-capture nucleosynthesis can be observed. On the experimental nuclear physics side, cross-section measurements at Gamow peak energies have improved our understanding of the hydrostatic burning phases of stars.

In the next few years, major drivers of the progress of the field will be new nuclear physics facilities. The Radioactive Ion Beam factory (RIB) at RIKEN in Japan is already operational, and the first results relevant to nuclear astrophysics will be presented in Heidelberg. Furthermore, the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) will soon be built in Darmstadt, and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) will be built in East Lansing (Michigan, USA). These facilities will allow to study many of the unstable nuclei located in the r-process path for the first time in the laboratory, and hence they can be considered as "r-process factories". Consequently, our understanding of the nucleosynthesis of the heavy elements will improve dramatically in the near future. Nuclei in the Cosmos XI in Heidelberg will be important for defining priorities for the nuclear astrophysics programs to be carried out at the new facilities.

In Germany, many initiatives related to nuclear astrophysics have recently been started. For example, the Helmholtz International Center for FAIR (HIC4FAIR) and the ExtreMe Matter Institute (EMMI) have been founded. In Munich, one research area of the Excellence Cluster "Origin and Structure of the Universe" is concerned with investigations of the enrichment of the Universe with heavy elements. The Helmholtz Graduate School for Hadron and Ion Research (HGS-HIRe) is aiming at educating the next generation of researchers working on hadron and ion research, including nuclear astrophysics. Germany, and in particular Heidelberg, being involved in many of these activities, is therefore an excellent place to host Nuclei in the Cosmos XI.

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