Nuclear Astrophysics Virtual Institute

The Nuclear Astrophysics Virtual Institute establishes a synergetical and close collaboration between experimental and theoretical nuclear physicists, astrophysicists and astronomical observers from Helmholtz centers, universities and research institutions in Germany with partners from France, Switzerland and the United States of America in order to tackle fore-front topics in nuclear astrophysics: stellar burning and the production of heavy elements in the Universe by r-process nucleosynthesis.

The time period for this Virtual Institute is ideal, since in the coming years experimental facilites become available at the partner institutions of the Nuclear Astrophysics Virtual Institute which will open a new era for reserach in nuclear astrophysics. The increasing beam energies and intensities and the increasing variety of beam species at the partner facilities at GSI, GANIL and MSU, leading the way to the next-generation radioactive-ion beam facilities FAIR, SPIRAL2 and FRIB at these sites, will allow to measure and investigate properties of r-process key nuclei. Due to dramatical background reduction in underground laboratories like the Felsenkeller in Dresden, experimental measurements of low-energy cross sections, as required in hydrostatic stellar burning, become feasible.

These unique experimental opportunities are supplemented by fore-front research in nuclear theory which presents the essential link between experimental data and simulations of the nucleosynthesis processes at astrophysical conditions. The Virtual Institute fosters a close collaboration of nuclear theorists and astrophysicists to study r-process nucleosynthesis combining advanced astrophysical models with extensive nuclear reaction networks and the best nuclear input data available. Calculated nucleosynthesis results will be confronted with observational data to identify key nuclear input, with a strong feedback to the experimental program at the partner facilities. The synergy of different research fields in the Nuclear Astrophysics Virtual Institute will lead to new insights into fundamental and yet unresolved questions of the origin of the elements in the Universe.