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Nucleosynthesis and Transients from Cataclysmic Astrophysical Events

Nucleosynthesis and Transients from Cataclysmic Astrophysical Events

Monday, March 18, 2024 at 4:00 pm
116 Weniger
Dr. Sanjana Curtis, Dept of Astronomy, UC Berkeley

Abstract: How were the elements that make up our bodies and our world created? This question lies at the heart of my talk, which will focus on two key nucleosynthesis sites -- the deaths of massive stars in spectacular explosions called core-collapse supernovae, and the cataclysmic mergers of neutron stars. Not only do the elements produced in these events shape the chemical evolution of our Universe, they also leave their fingerprints on the supernova and kilonova transients accompanying the events. Aided by advances in multi-messenger astrophysics, we are poised to answer long-standing questions about the origin of elements, such as the possible site(s) of heavy element production, and the nature and diversity of kilonova transients. However, to enable discovery, observational efforts must be matched by theoretical models that account for all relevant underlying physics and self-consistently link observed events to their progenitors. I will discuss my work on the computational modeling of abundances and light curves from both core-collapse supernovae and mergers involving neutron stars, with a focus on connecting high physical-fidelity numerical models to multi-messenger observables. These abundances are needed for understanding the compositions of metal-poor stars while the database of supernova and kilonova signals can be directly compared to transients observed by surveys with JWST, VRO, and Roman. By joint interpretation of data gathered by transient surveys and surveys of the gravitational wave sky, we can gain tremendous insight into stellar death, mergers, and the origin of elements.

Bio: Sanjana Curtis is an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Astronomy at UC Berkeley. Prior to joining Berkeley in Sept 2023, she was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago. Dr. Curtis works at the intersection of nuclear astrophysics and multi-messenger astrophysics, with a focus on the origin of elements and numerical modeling of core-collapse supernovae and kilonovae. She is also active in science communication and engages the public in astronomy and physics
through science writing as well as social media.