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In physical cosmology, the Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper, or αβγ paper, was created by Ralph Alpher, then a physics PhD student, and his advisor George Gamow. The work, which would become the subject of Alpher's PhD dissertation, argued that the Big Bang would create hydrogen, helium and heavier elements in the correct proportions to explain their abundance in the early universe. While the original theory neglected a number of processes important to the formation of heavy elements, subsequent developments showed that Big Bang nucleosynthesis is consistent with the observed constraints on all primordial elements.
Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology concerned with the studies of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and with fundamental questions about its origin, structure, evolution, and ultimate fate. Cosmology as a science originated with the Copernican principle, which implies that celestial bodies obey identical physical laws to those on Earth, and Newtonian mechanics, which first allowed those physical laws to be understood. Physical cosmology, as it is now understood, began with the development in 1915 of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, followed by major observational discoveries in the 1920s: first, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe contains a huge number of external galaxies beyond the Milky Way; then, work by Vesto Slipher and others showed that the universe is expanding. These advances made it possible to speculate about the origin of the universe, and allowed the establishment of the Big Bang theory, by Georges Lemaître, as the leading cosmological model. A few researchers still advocate a handful of alternative cosmologies; however, most cosmologists agree that the Big Bang theory explains the observations better.
Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its motion, and behavior through space and time, and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.
George Gamow, born Georgiy Antonovich Gamov, was a Soviet-American theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He was an early advocate and developer of Lemaître's Big Bang theory. He discovered a theoretical explanation of alpha decay via quantum tunneling, and worked on radioactive decay of the atomic nucleus, star formation, stellar nucleosynthesis and Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and molecular genetics.
Formally titled "The Origin of Chemical Elements", it was published in the April 1948 issue of Physical Review .
Physical Review is an American peer-reviewed scientific journal established in 1893 by Edward Nichols. It publishes original research as well as scientific and literature reviews on all aspects of physics. It is published by the American Physical Society (APS). The journal is in its third series, and is split in several sub-journals each covering a particular field of physics. It has a sister journal, Physical Review Letters, which publishes shorter articles of broader interest.
Gamow humorously decided to add the name of his friend—the eminent physicist Hans Bethe—to this paper in order to create the whimsical author list of Alpher, Bethe, Gamow, a play on the Greek letters α, β, and γ (alpha, beta, gamma). Bethe was listed in the article as "H. Bethe, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York". In his 1952 book, The Creation of the Universe, Gamow explained Hans Bethe's association with the theory thus:
Hans Albrecht Bethe was a German-American nuclear physicist who made important contributions to astrophysics, quantum electrodynamics and solid-state physics, and won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis.
Cornell University is a private and statutory Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the university was intended to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell's founding principle, a popular 1868 Ezra Cornell quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."
Ithaca is a city in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is the seat of Tompkins County, as well as the largest community in the Ithaca–Tompkins County metropolitan area. This area contains the municipalities of the Town of Ithaca, the village of Cayuga Heights, and other towns and villages in Tompkins County. The city of Ithaca is located on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, in Central New York, about 45 miles (72 km) south-west of Syracuse. It is named for the Greek island of Ithaca.
The results of these calculations were first announced in a letter to The Physical Review, April 1, 1948. This was signed Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow, and is often referred to as the 'alphabetical article.' It seemed unfair to the Greek alphabet to have the article signed by Alpher and Gamow only, and so the name of Dr. Hans A. Bethe (in absentia) was inserted in preparing the manuscript for print. Dr. Bethe, who received a copy of the manuscript, did not object, and, as a matter of fact, was quite helpful in subsequent discussions. There was, however, a rumor that later, when the alpha, beta, gamma theory went temporarily on the rocks, Dr. Bethe seriously considered changing his name to Zacharias.
The close fit of the calculated curve and the observed abundances is shown in Fig. 15, which represents the results of later calculations carried out on the electronic computer of the National Bureau of Standards by Ralph Alpher and R. C. Herman (who stubbornly refuses to change his name to Delter.)
Robert Herman was a United States scientist, best known for his work with Ralph Alpher in 1948-50, on estimating the temperature of cosmic microwave background radiation from the Big Bang explosion.
After this, Bethe did work on Big Bang nucleosynthesis.
In physical cosmology, Big Bang nucleosynthesis refers to the production of nuclei other than those of the lightest isotope of hydrogen during the early phases of the Universe. Primordial nucleosynthesis is believed by most cosmologists to have taken place in the interval from roughly 10 seconds to 20 minutes after the Big Bang, and is calculated to be responsible for the formation of most of the universe's helium as the isotope helium-4 (4He), along with small amounts of the hydrogen isotope deuterium, the helium isotope helium-3 (3He), and a very small amount of the lithium isotope lithium-7 (7Li). In addition to these stable nuclei, two unstable or radioactive isotopes were also produced: the heavy hydrogen isotope tritium ; and the beryllium isotope beryllium-7 (7Be); but these unstable isotopes later decayed into 3He and 7Li, as above.
Alpher, at the time only a graduate student, was generally dismayed by the inclusion of Bethe's name on this paper. He felt that the inclusion of another eminent physicist would overshadow his personal contribution to this work and prevent him from receiving proper recognition for such an important discovery. He expressed resentment over Gamow's whimsy as late as 1999.
The theory originally proposed that all atomic nuclei are produced by the successive capture of neutrons, one mass unit at a time. However, later study challenged the universality of the successive capture theory. No element was found to have a stable isotope with an atomic mass of five or eight. Physicists soon noticed that these mass gaps would hinder the production of elements beyond helium. Just as it's impossible to climb a staircase one step at a time when one of the steps is missing, this discovery meant that the successive capture theory could not account for higher elements.
It was eventually recognized that most of the heavy elements observed in the present universe are the result of stellar nucleosynthesis in stars, a theory first suggested by Arthur Stanley Eddington, given credence by Hans Bethe, and quantitatively developed by Fred Hoyle and a number of other scientists.
However, the Alpher–Bethe–Gamow theory does correctly explain the relative abundances of the isotopes of hydrogen and helium. Taken together, these account for more than 99% of the baryonic mass of the universe. Today, nucleosynthesis is widely considered to have taken place in two stages: formation of hydrogen and helium according to the Alpher–Bethe–Gamow theory, and stellar nucleosynthesis of higher elements according to Bethe and Hoyle's later theories.
The CNO cycle is one of the two known sets of fusion reactions by which stars convert hydrogen to helium, the other being the proton–proton chain reaction. Unlike the latter, the CNO cycle is a catalytic cycle. It is dominant in stars that are more than 1.3 times as massive as the Sun.
The proton–proton chain reaction is one of two known sets of nuclear fusion reactions by which stars convert hydrogen to helium. It dominates in stars with masses less than or equal to that of the Sun's, whereas the CNO cycle, the other known reaction, is suggested by theoretical models to dominate in stars with masses greater than about 1.3 times that of the Sun's.
Nucleosynthesis is the process that creates new atomic nuclei from pre-existing nucleons. The first nuclei were formed about three minutes after the Big Bang, through the process called Big Bang nucleosynthesis. Seventeen minutes later the universe had cooled to a point at which these processes ended, so only the fastest and simplest reactions occurred, leaving our universe containing about 75% hydrogen, 24% helium, and traces of other elements such as lithium and the hydrogen isotope deuterium. The universe still has approximately the same composition today.
The triple-alpha process is a set of nuclear fusion reactions by which three helium-4 nuclei are transformed into carbon.
Stellar nucleosynthesis is the theory explaining the creation (nucleosynthesis) of chemical elements by nuclear fusion reactions between atoms within stars. Stellar nucleosynthesis has occurred continuously since the original creation of hydrogen, helium and lithium during the Big Bang. It is a highly predictive theory that today yields excellent agreement between calculations based upon it and the observed abundances of the elements. It explains why the observed abundances of elements in the universe grow over time and why some elements and their isotopes are much more abundant than others. The theory was initially proposed by Fred Hoyle in 1946, who later refined it in 1954. Further advances were made, especially to nucleosynthesis by neutron capture of the elements heavier than iron, by Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, William Alfred Fowler and Hoyle in their famous 1957 B2FH paper, which became one of the most heavily cited papers in astrophysics history.
The term p-process is used in two ways in the scientific literature concerning the astrophysical origin of the elements (nucleosynthesis). Originally it referred to a proton capture process which is the source of certain, naturally occurring, proton-rich isotopes of the elements from selenium to mercury. These nuclides are called p-nuclei and their origin is still not completely understood. Although it was shown that the originally suggested process cannot produce the p-nuclei, later on the term p-process was sometimes used to generally refer to any nucleosynthesis process supposed to be responsible for the p-nuclei.
The abundance of the chemical elements is a measure of the occurrence of the chemical elements relative to all other elements in a given environment. Abundance is measured in one of three ways: by the mass-fraction ; by the mole-fraction ; or by the volume-fraction. Volume-fraction is a common abundance measure in mixed gases such as planetary atmospheres, and is similar in value to molecular mole-fraction for gas mixtures at relatively low densities and pressures, and ideal gas mixtures. Most abundance values in this article are given as mass-fractions.
William Alfred "Willy" Fowler was an American nuclear physicist, later astrophysicist, who, with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar won the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics. He is known for his theoretical and experimental research into nuclear reactions within stars and the energy elements produced in the process.
Carbon-12 (12C) is the more abundant of the two stable isotopes of carbon, amounting to 98.93% of the element carbon; its abundance is due to the triple-alpha process by which it is created in stars. Carbon-12 is of particular importance in its use as the standard from which atomic masses of all nuclides are measured, thus, its atomic mass is exactly 12 daltons by definition. Carbon-12 is composed of 6 protons 6 neutrons and 6 electrons.
Ralph Asher Alpher was an American cosmologist, who carried out pioneering work in the early 1950s on the Big Bang model, including Big Bang nucleosynthesis and predictions of the cosmic microwave background radiation.
Supernova nucleosynthesis is a theory of the nucleosynthesis of the natural abundances of the chemical elements in supernova explosions, advanced as the nucleosynthesis of elements from carbon to nickel in massive stars by Fred Hoyle in 1954. In massive stars, the nucleosynthesis by fusion of lighter elements into heavier ones occurs during sequential hydrostatic burning processes called helium burning, carbon burning, oxygen burning, and silicon burning, in which the ashes of one nuclear fuel become, after compressional heating, the fuel for the subsequent burning stage. During hydrostatic burning these fuels synthesize overwhelmingly the alpha-nucleus products. A rapid final explosive burning is caused by the sudden temperature spike owing to passage of the radially moving shock wave that was launched by the gravitational collapse of the core. W. D. Arnett and his Rice University colleagues demonstrated that the final shock burning would synthesize the non-alpha-nucleus isotopes more effectively than hydrostatic burning was able to do, suggesting that the expected shock-wave nucleosynthesis is an essential component of supernova nucleosynthesis. Together, shock-wave nucleosynthesis and hydrostatic-burning processes create most of the isotopes of the elements carbon, oxygen, and elements with Z = 10–28. As a result of the ejection of the newly synthesized isotopes of the chemical elements by supernova explosions their abundances steadily increased within interstellar gas. That increase became evident to astronomers from the initial abundances in newly born stars exceeding those in earlier-born stars. To explain that temporal increase of the natural abundances of the elements was the main goal of stellar nucleosynthesis. Hoyle's paper was the founding paper of that theory; however, ideas about nuclear reactions in stars providing power for the stars is often confused with stellar nucleosynthesis. Realize that nuclear fusion in stars can occur with negligible impact on the abundances of the chemical elements.
Although there are nine known isotopes of helium (2He), only helium-3 and helium-4 are stable. All radioisotopes are short-lived, the longest-lived being 6
with a half-life of 806.7 milliseconds. The least stable is 5
, with a half-life of 7.6×10−22 s, although it is possible that 2
has an even shorter half-life.
Nuclear astrophysics is an interdisciplinary branch of physics involving close collaboration among researchers in various subfields of nuclear physics and astrophysics: notably stellar modeling; measurement and theoretical estimation of nuclear reaction rates; physical cosmology and cosmochemistry; gamma ray, optical and X-ray astronomy; and extending our knowledge about nuclear lifetimes and masses. In general terms, nuclear astrophysics aims to understand the origin of the chemical elements and the energy generation in stars.
The B2FH paper, named after the initials of the authors of the paper, Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, William A. Fowler, and Fred Hoyle, is a landmark paper on the origin of the chemical elements published in Reviews of Modern Physics in 1957. The title of that paper is "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars", but as that paper grew in influence, it came to be referred to only as "B2FH". The B2FH paper spread stellar nucleosynthesis theory widely in the scientific community, especially among astronomers who saw everyday relevance to their quest, at a time when it was appreciated by only a handful of experts in nuclear physics. But it did not create the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis as much as bring it vividly to life.
Neutron capture nucleosynthesis describes two nucleosynthesis pathways: the r-process and the s-process, for rapid and slow neutron captures, respectively. R-process describes neutron capture in a region of high neutron flux, such as during supernova nucleosynthesis after core-collapse, and yields neutron-rich nuclides. S-process describes neutron capture that is slow relative to the rate of beta decay, as for stellar nucleosynthesis in some stars, and yields nuclei with stable nuclear shells. Each process is responsible for roughly half of the observed abundances of elements heavier than iron. The importance of neutron capture to the observed abundance of the chemical elements was first described in 1957 in the B2FH paper.