Improving $r$-process calculations for the rare-earth abundance peak via mass measurements at JYFLTRAP

M. Vilen et al.

accepted to PRL (2018)

The rare-earth peak in the $r$-process abundance pattern depends sensitively on both the astrophysical conditions and subtle changes in nuclear structure in the region. This work takes an important step elucidating the nuclear structure and reducing the uncertainties in $r$-process calculations via precise atomic mass measurements at the JYFLTRAP double Penning trap. $^{158}$Nd, $^{160,162}$Pm, and $^{164-166}$Gd have been measured for the first time and the precisions for $^{156}$Nd, $^{158}$Pm, $^{162,163}$Eu, $^{163}$Gd, and $^{164}$Tb have been improved considerably. The effect of the new mass values on the calculated $r$-process abundances has been studied for a neutron star merger scenario. Substantial changes in the abundances in the lanthanide region relevant for optical observations from neutron star mergers have been found. These are mainly due to lower neutron separation energies at $N=98,100$ and $102$ leading to smaller odd-even staggering than predicted by theoretical mass models. Two-neutron separation energies exhibit changes in their slopes after $N=96$ for the Nd ($Z=60$) and after $N= 100$ for the Gd ($Z=64$) isotopes but they do not support the existence of a subshell closure at $N=100$. Further studies are anticipated to shed light on the underlying physics affecting the binding energies, and eventually, the $r$-process abundances.