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Precise nuclear physics for the sun
Bemmerer, D.
For many centuries, the study of the Sun has been an important testbed for understanding stars that are further away. One of the first astronomical observations Galileo Galilei made in 1612 with the newly invented telescope concerned the sunspots, and in 1814, Joseph von Fraunhofer employed his new spectroscope to discover the absorption lines in the solar spectrum that are now named after him.
Even though more refined and new modes of observation are now available than in the days of Galileo and Fraunhofer, the study of the Sun is still high on the agenda of contemporary science, due to three guiding interests.

The first is connected to the ages-old human striving to understand the structure of the larger world surrounding us. Modern telescopes, some of them even based outside the Earth’s atmosphere in space, have succeeded in observing astronomical objects that are billions of lightyears away. However, for practical reasons precision data that are important for understanding stars can still only be gained from the Sun. In a sense, the observations of far-away astronomical objects thus call for a more precise study of the closeby, of the Sun, for their interpretation.

The second interest stems from the human desire to understand the essence of the world, in particular the elementary particles of which it consists. Large accelerators have been constructed to produce and collide these particles. However, man-made machines can never be as luminous as the Sun when it comes to producing particles. Solar neutrinos have thus served not only as an astronomical tool to understand the Sun’s inner workings, but their behavior on the way from the Sun to the Earth is also being studied with the aim to understand their nature and interactions.

The third interest is strictly connected to life on Earth. A multitude of research has shown that even relatively slight changes in the Earth’s climate may strongly affect the living conditions in a number of densely populated areas, mainly near the ocean shore and in arid regions. Thus, great effort is expended on the study of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Also the Sun, via the solar irradiance and via the effects of the so-called solar wind of magnetic particles on the Earth’s atmosphere, may affect the climate. There is no proof linking solar effects to short-term changes in the Earth’s climate. However, such effects cannot be excluded, either, making it necessary to study the Sun.

The experiments summarized in the present work contribute to the present-day study of our Sun by repeating, in the laboratory, some of the nuclear processes that take place in the core of the Sun. They aim to improve the precision of the nuclear cross section data that lay the foundation of the model of the nuclear reactions generating energy and producing neutrinos in the Sun.
In order to reach this goal, low-energy nuclear physics experiments are performed. Wherever possible, the data are taken in a low-background, underground environment. There is only one underground accelerator facility in the world, the Laboratory Underground for Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA) 0.4MV accelerator in the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy. Much of the research described here is based on experiments at LUNA. Background and feasibility studies shown here lay the base for future, higher-energy underground accelerators. Finally, it is shown that such a device can even be placed in a shallow-underground facility such as the Dresden Felsenkeller without great loss of sensitivity.
  • Open Access LogoWissenschaftlich-Technische Berichte / Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf; HZDR-024 2012
    ISSN: 2191-8708

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