Californium-254 and kilonova light curves

Y. Zhu et al.

ApJL 863 2 (2018)

Neutron star mergers offer unique conditions for the creation of the heavy elements and additionally provide a testbed for our understanding of this synthesis known as the $r$-process. We have performed dynamical nucleosynthesis calculations and identified a single isotope, $^{254}$Cf, which has a particularly high impact on the brightness of electromagnetic transients associated with mergers on the order of 15 to 250 days. This is due to the anomalously long half-life of this isotope and the efficiency of fission thermalization compared to other nuclear channels. We estimate the fission fragment yield of this nucleus and outline the astrophysical conditions under which $^{254}$Cf has the greatest impact to the light curve. Future observations in the middle-IR which are bright during this regime could indicate the production of actinide nucleosynthesis.