In stars, four hydrogen nuclei are converted into a helium nucleus in two competing nuclear fusion processes, namely the proton-proton chain (p-p chain) and the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) cycle. For temperatures above 20 million kelvin, the CNO cycle dominates energy production, and its rate is determined by the slowest process, the 14N(p, γ) 15 O radiative capture reaction. This reaction proceeds through direct and resonant capture into the ground state and several excited states in 15O. High energy data for capture into each of these states can be extrapolated to stellar energies using an R-matrix fit. The results from several recent extrapolation studies are discussed. A new experiment at the LUNA (Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics) 400 kV accelerator in Italy's Gran Sasso laboratory measures the total cross section of the 14N(p, γ) 15O reaction with a windowless gas target and a 4π BGO summing detector, down to center of mass energies as low as 70 keV. After reviewing the characteristics of the LUNA facility, the main features of this experiment are discussed, as well as astrophysical scenarios where cross section data in the energy range covered have a direct impact, without any extrapolation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nuclear and High Energy Physics