My project will address a critical long-standing question in astrophysics: ‘How are elements in the Universe synthesised?’. It is established that stars with masses between 0.8 - 10 times the mass of the Sun are key contributors to the chemical evolution of the Universe. However, the physics that governs these cosmic chemical factories and their element production, is still uncertain. With an interplay of both state-of-the-art models and pioneering multi-wavelength observations, I aim to understand the synthesis of elements by such stars. By observing evolved stars, we can rebuild the history of their production of elements and isotopes, taking us much closer to a complete understanding of the framework for the chemical evolution of the Universe.
Significance: My project addresses one of the six top-level science questions highlighted in the Decadal Plan for Australian Astronomy 2016-2025, Australia in the Era of Global Astronomy, “How are elements produced by stars and recycled through galaxies?”, thereby contributing to a field that is deemed critically important to Australian Astronomy.
Innovation: In recent years, stellar models have gained in sophistication. However, significant uncertainties exist in the treatment of stellar mass loss and mixing episodes, having a direct impact on the predicted stellar yields, which in turn affect the Galactic chemical evolution models they feed into. The novelty of my proposed project lies in its approach of using multi-wavelength observations of stellar fossils: evolved stars, to reconstruct the production of elements and isotopes in stars. This provides the most effective tool to trace elemental and isotopic synthesis. The results of this study will directly be used in modelling chemical evolution during the formation and evolution of our Galaxy.
Collaborative research: I have established a productive and mutually-gainful collaborative network with leading experts in directly related fields. My collaborators include Prof. Hans Van Winckel (Belgium), Prof Martin Asplund(ANU), Prof. Peter Wood (ANU), and Dr. Anibal García-Hernández (Spain) - all world-experts in spectroscopic studies of evolved stars; Prof. Orsola De Marco (Macquarie University) - a leading researcher in binary evolution; Dr. Amanda Karakas (Monash University), Prof. John Lattanzio (Monash University), and Dr. Paolo Ventura (Italy) - world-experts in theoretical stellar evolution and nucleosynthesis modelling. These collaborations will further propel the high-impact outcomes of my research.