Light elements and cosmic rays in the early galaxy

Reuven Ramaty*, Benzion Kozlovsky, Richard E. Lingenfelter, Hubert Reeves

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Observations of Be and B in low-metallicity halo stars formed during the first 109 yr of Galactic evolution show that cosmic-ray acceleration must have taken place in the early Galaxy. The observed abundances of these elements relative to Fe, which, in the early Galaxy, is almost exclusively produced in Type II supernovae, strongly suggest that the cosmic-ray acceleration is also related to such supernovae with the particles being accelerated out of freshly nucleosynthesized matter before it mixes into the ambient, essentially nonmetallic interstellar medium. The observed abundances require that about 3 × 1049 to 2 × 1050 ergs per Type II supernova be imparted to these metallic cosmic rays, depending on whether or not H and He are accelerated along with the metals. The current data, however, are not sufficient to decide whether these cosmic rays are predominantly low energy or high energy. But, in any case, arguments of energetics imply a hard-energy spectrum extending up in energy to at least 50 MeV nucleon-1. This rules out Be and B production by supernova ejecta without further acceleration. In addition to production by cosmic rays, there must also be significant 11B production by neutrinos. This argument is driven by the observed 11B/10B ratio in meteorites that is very difficult to reproduce by cosmic-ray interactions. Observations of 6Li and Li in the early Galaxy provide information on the acceleration of nonmetallic cosmic rays out of the interstellar medium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-748
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART I
StatePublished - 1997


  • Acceleration of particles
  • Cosmic rays
  • Galaxy: abundances
  • Galaxy: evolution
  • Nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances


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