Researchers at the NSCL have established the half-life of the doubly-magic nucleus Ni-78. This exotic nickel isotope has 14 more neutrons than the most neutron-rich, stable nickel isotope found on earth.
As part of his Ph.D. thesis project, Paul Hosmer and his collaborators identified eleven Ni-78 nuclei. The half-life of Ni-78 sets the time scale of the rapid neutron-capture process (r-process) through the bottleneck at neutron number N=50. Ni-78 is the only doubly-magic nucleus that poses a so-called waiting-point for the r-process, which describes the creation and abundances of elements heavier than iron in the universe.
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