On the evolution of the light elements. I. D,3He, and4He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The light elements D, 3He, 4He, and 7Li are produced in big bang nucleosynthesis and undergo changes in their abundances due to Galactic processing. Since one may observe most of these elements only in contemporary environments, knowledge of the intervening evolution is necessary for determining the observational constraints on primordial nucleosynthesis. Chemical and stellar evolution model dependences in light element evolution are systematically investigated via a comparison of 1460 possible chemical evolution scenarios and a comparison of stellar nucleosynthesis yields, all of which have been selected to fit solar neighborhood C, N, O, and Fe abundances as well as the observed local gas density and gas mass fraction. The light element evolution and solar system yields in these models are found to span a wide range, explicitly demonstrating the model dependence. The range of model dependence for D, 3He, and 4He solar abundances is calculated, and its sensitivity to the heavy element constraints is noted. The chemical evolution contribution to the uncertainty in the observed primordial light element abundances is estimated, and the effects of this uncertainty on big bang nucleosynthesis results are discussed. The predictions for the light elements are found to be correlated; the extent and physical origin of these correlations is discussed. D and 3He evolution is found to have significant model dependence; however, the dominant factor determining their solar and interstellar abundances is their primordial abundance. In addition, 3He is found to be very sensitive to the details of processing in low-mass stars. 4He yields are shown to be very model dependent. In particular, both the introduction of mass loss and the possibly very high 4He stellar yields in the poorly understood mass range of ∼8-12 M ⊙ can lead to large enhancement of 4He production and can lead to large slopes of ΔY/ΔN and ΔY/ΔO. It is found that the inclusion of secondary nitrogen leads to only a small distortion in the lowmetallicity Y - N relation if there is also a significant contribution of primary N, as required by observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-498
Number of pages21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART I
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'On the evolution of the light elements. I. D,<sup>3</sup>He, and<sup>4</sup>He'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this