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Atomic Synthesis and Stellar Energy

Naturevolume 128pages194196 (1931) | Download Citation



SOME time ago F. G. Houtermans and the present writer investigated the possibility of synthesis of elements, in stellar interiors, by the wave mechanics process of penetration of nuclei by protons.1 The theory was not strictly correct, and various modifications have been proposed since, of which the theory of Wilson2 is perhaps the most important; all theories, however, lead to a probability of proton penetration having the same exponential dependence on both the temperature, T, and the atomic number, Z. The importance of this factor far outweighs that of the multiplicative forefactor which alone is different in the different theories, and it seems therefore desirable to discuss somewhat more fully the consequences of the assumption that any of these theories will give the right order of magnitude for the temperature at which synthesis will occur in large amounts. The effect of the exponential is roughly to make the synthesis probability vary as T20, or some comparable power, and thus even a change of 1000 in the fore-factor does not seriously affect T. The investigation is being discussed fully in the Astrophysical Journal, but in view of the interest of the subject at present, and also of the comparative unfamiliarity of the line of attack, a short summary may both appeal to a wider audience and prepare the way for the more detailed treatment.


  1. 1

    Zeits. f. Physik, 54, 656; 1929.

  2. 2

    Mon. Not. R.A.S., 91, 283; 1931.

  3. 3

    Proc. Roy. Soc., 126, 632; 1930.

  4. 4

    Cf. Russell and Atkinson, Nature, May 2, p. 661, 1931.

  5. 5

    Russell, Astr. Jour., 72, 11; 1929.

  6. 6

    Nature, 123, 607; 1929.

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  1. Rutgers University

    • Dr. R. D'E. ATKINSON


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