Production of Very Light Elements and Strontium in the Early Ejecta of Neutron Star Mergers

Albino Perego, Diego Vescovi, Achille Fiore, Leonardo Chiesa, Christian Vogl, Stefano Benetti, Sebastiano Bernuzzi, Marica Branchesi, Enrico Cappellaro, Sergio Cristallo, Andreas Flörs, Wolfgang E. Kerzendorf, David Radice

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12 Scopus citations


We study the production of very light elements (Z < 20) in the dynamical and spiral-wave wind ejecta of binary neutron star mergers by combining detailed nucleosynthesis calculations with the outcome of numerical relativity merger simulations. All our models are targeted to GW170817 and include neutrino radiation. We explore different finite-temperature, composition-dependent nuclear equations of state, and binary mass ratios, and find that hydrogen and helium are the most abundant light elements. For both elements, the decay of free neutrons is the driving nuclear reaction. In particular, ∼0.5-2 10-6 M o˙ of hydrogen are produced in the fast expanding tail of the dynamical ejecta, while ∼1.5-11 10-6 M o˙ of helium are synthesized in the bulk of the dynamical ejecta, usually in association with heavy r-process elements. By computing synthetic spectra, we find that the possibility of detecting hydrogen and helium features in kilonova spectra is very unlikely for fiducial masses and luminosities, even when including nonlocal thermodynamic equilibrium effects. The latter could be crucial to observe helium lines a few days after merger for faint kilonovae or for luminous kilonovae ejecting large masses of helium. Finally, we compute the amount of strontium synthesized in the dynamical and spiral-wave wind ejecta, and find that it is consistent with (or even larger than, in the case of a long-lived remnant) the one required to explain early spectral features in the kilonova of GW170817.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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