The carbon cycle, or Bethe-Weizsäcker cycle, plays an important role in astrophysics as one of the most important energy sources for quiescent and explosive hydrogen burning in stars. This paper presents the intellectual and historical background of the idea of the correlation between stellar energy production and the synthesis of the chemical elements in stars on the example of this cycle. In particular, it addresses the contributions of Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker and Hans Bethe, who provided the first predictions of the carbon cycle. Further, the experimental verification of the predicted process as it developed over the following decades is discussed, as well as the extension of the initial carbon cycle to the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) multi-cycles and the hot CNO cycles. This development emerged from the detailed experimental studies of the associated nuclear reactions over more than seven decades. Finally, the impact of the experimental and theoretical results on our present understanding of hydrogen burning in different stellar environments is presented, as well as the impact on our understanding of the chemical evolution of our universe.
Physics in Perspective – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 5, 2018
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