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  HEAVYMETAL - How Neutron Star Mergers Make Heavy Elements

   School of Physics

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  Prof E Sokell, Prof P Dunne  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The incredible density, gravity, and electromagnetic field strengths of neutron stars (NS) make them laboratories for physics under extreme conditions. But probing these exotic objects is difficult. With the 2017 gravitational wave detection of a NS-NS merger, the landscape changed, and we can now get high-quality spectra of the decompressed neutron-rich matter emerging from the collision. This is a new transient astrophysical phenomenon called a ‘kilonova’. Kilonovae are a potential treasure trove of information on some of the biggest open questions in physics: understanding the nuclear and astrophysical pathways that created half of all the heavy elements (Z>30) in the universe, and the physics of very hot and extremely dense matter [1]. Kilonovae are challenging: the phenomenon is short-lived, requiring rapid follow-up with large telescopes, the outflow is heavy element-dominated making it extremely demanding to model, and the merger itself covers a huge dynamic range and involves complex nuclear physics. To interpret the spectra we require new atomic data, which does not yet exist for most of the heavy elements. This project is based in the Spectroscopy group at UCD, and will work closely with HEAVYMETAL partners in Queen's University Belfast, working in theoretical atomic structure. The primary aim of the project will be to interpret and analyse experimental spectra recorded in Dublin, particularly those of the first four ion stages of the Lanthanide elements, followed by ions of 6th row elements. The successful candidate will work with modern atomic structure codes and generate data for input into kilonova models and simulations.

Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Stipend of €22,000 and full fees funded for four years.

Funded by ERC-2022-SYG 101071865 - HEAVYMETAL


[1] Watson, D., Hansen, C.J., Selsing, J. et al. Identification of strontium in the merger of two neutron stars. Nature 574, 497–500 (2019).
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