A Study in Stellar Nucleosynthesis, Alchemy in the Information Age
Michael G. Lum
IfA, Hawaii



Starting with our Astronomy-101 courses, we learn the romantic notion that we are all stardust. That every atom in our physical being was made in the dying blast of a massive star, eons ago. While supernovae, and their accompanying rapid (r-) nucleosynthesis are the primary source of the heaviest atoms, the most common elements have a slightly less "flashy" origin. Deep in the heart of stars like our own, nuclear processes are real-life alchemical laboratories, changing atoms from one element into another. These products are secreted in the cores for the main-sequence lifetime of a star, only released as the star enters the final stages of its life. Using modern data-analysis techniques on high resolution spectra, we probe the atmospheres of cluster stars, and will present evidence of how their composition changes over the course of their time on the main sequence. We will also demonstrate how simple computational techniques lead to more robust statistical analysis, and orders of magnitude reduction in the telescope time required for similar observations.