Outlook

Present efforts in nuclear astrophysics may soon lead to the solution of the solar neutrino problem, the successful modeling of the supernova explosion mechanism, an understanding of the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements, and more quantitative constraints on the structure and dynamics of neutron stars. If the solution of the solar neutrino problem involves massive neutrinos, nuclear physics will have demonstrated the need for physics beyond the current Standard Model of particle physics. The supernova mechanism and the origin of the heavy elements are questions with deep connections, as the dynamics of the supernova explosion and the fossil record of that explosion in the synthesized nuclei must be understood within a single model.

In the longer term, it is apparent that an explosion of new instrumentation is revolutionizing the rich intersections between astronomy, astrophysics, and nuclear physics: new technology telescopes, satellite-based detectors for probing the microwave background and for measuring astrophysical sources of gamma rays, more sophisticated solar-neutrino detectors, radioactive-beam facilities for the study of reactions that previously occurred only in stars, high-energy neutrino detectors utilizing the ice caps or the oceans, new observations of neutron stars (including the exciting prospect that the detection of gravitational radiation emitted when neutron stars collide may become possible), and others. Increasingly, the understanding of new data on astrophysical objects depends on our understanding of the underlying nuclear (and atomic) microphysics that drive the evolution and energy production of the stars and the galaxies in which they reside. This inextricable linking of nuclear physics and astrophysics has produced a rich bond between the two fields that seems destined to grow ever stronger.



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