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Heavy element production in a compact object merger observed by JWST
Gompertz, Benjamin P.
Salafia, Om Sharan
Lamb, Gavin P.
Malesani, Daniele B.
Oates, Samantha R.
Springer Nature Switzerland AG
The mergers of binary compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes are of central interest to several areas of astrophysics, including as the progenitors of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs)1, sources of high-frequency gravitational waves (GW)2 and likely production sites for heavy element nucleosynthesis via rapid neutron capture (the r-process)3. Here we present observations of the exceptionally bright gamma-ray burst GRB 230307A. We show that GRB 230307A belongs to the class of long-duration gamma-ray bursts associated with compact object mergers4–6, and contains a kilonova similar to AT2017gfo, associated with the gravitational-wave merger GW1708177–12. We obtained James Webb Space Telescope mid-infrared (mid-IR) imaging and spectroscopy 29 and 61 days after the burst. The spectroscopy shows an emission line at 2.15 microns which we interpret as tellurium (atomic mass A=130), and a very red source, emitting most of its light in the mid-IR due to the production of lanthanides. These observations demonstrate that nucleosynthesis in GRBs can create r-process elements across a broad atomic mass range and play a central role in heavy element nucleosynthesis across the Universe.
Nucleosynthesis , Gamma-ray burst , r-process elements , Heavy element nucleosynthesis
Levan, A., Gompertz, B.P., Salafia, O.S. et al. (2023) 'Heavy element production in a compact object merger observed by JWST', Nature. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06759-1
© 2023, The Authors, under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published as: Levan, A., Gompertz, B.P., Salafia, O.S. et al. (2023) 'Heavy element production in a compact object merger observed by JWST', Nature, doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06759-1. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06759-1