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Background: Nova explosions synthesize elements up to A≃40, and discrepancies exist between calculated and observed abundances of Ar and Ca created in the explosion. The K38(p,γ)Ca39 reaction rate has been shown to be influential on these isotopic abundances at the endpoint of nova nucleosynthesis. The energies of the three most important resonances, corresponding to Jπ=5/2+ excited states in the Ca39 nucleus above the proton separation threshold, are uncertain and one has been measured with conflicting values [Er=679(2) versus Er=701(2) keV] in previous experiments. Purpose: Reducing the uncertainties on the resonance energies would allow for a better understanding of the reaction rate. To improve these uncertainties, we searched for γ rays from the depopulation of the corresponding excited states in Ca39. Methods: We report a new measurement of these resonance energies via the observation of previously unobserved γ-ray transitions. These transitions were observed by studying the Ca40(3He,αγ)Ca39 reaction with Gammasphere ORRUBA Dual Detectors for Experimental Structure Studies (GODDESS). The updated resonance energies were then used to calculate the K38(p,γ)Ca39 reaction rate and assess its uncertainties. Results: In total, 23 new transitions were found, including three γ-ray transitions corresponding to the three Jπ=5/2+ states of astrophysical interest at energies of 6156.2(16), 6268.8(22), and 6470.8(19) keV. These correspond to resonance energies in the K38(p,γ)Ca39 reaction of 386(2), 498(2), and 701(2) keV. Conclusions: Updated K38(p,γ)Ca39 reaction rate calculations show a reduced upper limit at nova temperatures. However, the lower-than-previously-measured energy of the 498-keV resonance and uncertainty in its resonance strength increases the upper limit of the rate close to previous estimates at 0.4 GK.

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Physical Review C