Astrophysics and Space Science

, Volume 265, Issue 1–4, pp 77–86 | Cite as

Cosmic Lithium-Beryllium-Boron Story

  • Elisabeth Vangioni-Flam
  • Michel Cassé


Light element nucleosynthesis is an important chapter of nuclear astrophysics. Specifically, the rare and fragile light nuclei Lithium, Beryllium and Boron (LiBeB) are not generated in the normal course of stellar nucleosynthesis (except 7Li) and are, in fact, destroyed in stellar interiors. This characteristic is reflected in the low abundance of these simple species. Up to recently, the most plausible interpretation was that Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) interact with interstellar CNO to form LiBeB. Other origins have been also identified: primordial and stellar (7Li) and supernova neutrino spallation (7Li and 11B). In contrast, 9Be, 10B and 6Li are pure spallative products. This last isotope presents a special interest since the 6Li/7Li ratio has been measured recently in a few halo stars offering a new constraint on the early galactic evolution of light elements. Optical measurements of the beryllium and boron abundances in halo stars have been achieved by the 10 meter KECK telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope. These observations indicate a quasi linear correlation between Be and B vs Fe, at least at low metallicity, which, at first sight, is contradictory to a dominating GCR origin of the light elements which predicts a quadratic relationship. As a consequence, the theory of the origin and evolution of LiBeB nuclei has to be refined. Aside GCRs, which are accelerated in the general interstellar medium (ISM) and create LiBeB through the break up of CNO by fast protons and alphas, Wolf-Rayet stars (WR) and core collapse supernovae (SNII) grouped in superbubbles could produce copious amounts of light elements via the fragmentation in flight of rapid carbon and oxygen nuclei colliding with H and He in the ISM. In this case, LiBeB would be produced independently of the interstellar medium chemical composition and thus a primary origin is expected. These different processes are discussed in the framework of a galactic evolutionary model. More spectroscopic observations (specifically of O, Fe, Li, Be, B) in halo stars are required for a better understanding of the relative contribution of the various mechanisms. Future tests on the injection and acceleration of nuclei by supernovae and Wolf Rayet relying on gamma-ray line astronomy will be invoked in the perspective of the European INTEGRAL satellite.


Halo Star Core Collapse Supernova Galactic Evolution Stellar Nucleosynthesis Early Galaxy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Vangioni-Flam
    • 1
  • Michel Cassé
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut d'Astrophysique de ParisCNRSParisFrance
  2. 2.Service d'AstrophysiqueCEAGif/YvetteFrance
  3. 3.Institut d'Astrophysique de ParisParisFrance

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