On Wednesday 4 September, ICTP will host a colloquium by Professor Timothy Beers, the Grace-Rupley Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame. The title of his talk, which will be held in ICTP's Budinich Lecture Hall starting at 16:30, is "Astrophysics Origin of the Elements in the Periodic Table".
The year 2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table, and Beers' talk uses this as a reference point to discuss how astronomers have pieced together plausible origin stories for most of the elements formed in nature. From the breakthrough observations of Paul Merrill (1952), which first demonstrated that essentially all elements beyond Hydrogen and Helium were formed in stars, to the discovery of the astrophysical origin of the rapid neutron-capture elements in binary neutron star mergers (2017), he will present a summary of our modern understanding of this fascinating history. He also will highlight a number of remaining questions, and how astronomers and physicists are working to fill in our gaps in knowledge.
The talk will be livestreamed. Light refreshments will follow the event.
Beers is a co-PI in the Physics Frontier Center of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics – Center for the Evolution of the Elements, funded by the US National Science Foundation. He is a former director of the US Kitt Peak National Observatory, and spent 25 years working as a professor in physics and astronomy at Michigan State University. Beers is interested in the origin and evolution of the elements in the Universe, and the assembly of large spiral galaxies such as the Milky Way, a field now referred to as Galactic Archaeology. For decades, Professor Beers has designed and executed large-scale surveys of stars in the Milky Way, efficiently sifting through literally millions of individual stars in order to find those objects that have recorded the chemical history of the Universe in their atmospheres. His work has led to the identification of a subset of the so-called carbon-enhanced metal-poor (CEMP) stars that exhibit a characteristic light-element signature (enhanced C, N, O, Na, Si, Mg), now recognized to be due to nucleosynthesis processes associated with the very first stars born in the Universe. Presently he is conducting a survey for so-called r-process-enhanced stars, which are metal-poor stars that exhibit over-abundances of elements produced by the rapid neutron-capture process, and place strong constraints on the origin of over half of the elements beyond iron in the Periodic Table.