National Superconducting
Cyclotron Laboratory

Hendrik Schatz
Hendrik Schatz
JINA Department Head
Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics
PhD, Physics, University of Heidelberg 1997
Joined NSCL in December 1999
Phone (517) 908-7397
Fax (517) 353-5967
Office 2006
schatz at

Hendrik Schatz

Professional Homepage

Research Group

The goal of our experimental and theoretical research program is to understand the nuclear processes that shape the cosmos. To that end, we take advantage of the capabilities of NSCL and other laboratories to produce the same exotic isotopes that are created in extreme astrophysical environments such as supernovae, hydrogen explosions on neutron stars and white dwarfs, or the crusts of neutron stars. By measuring the properties of these very short lived isotopes we can address questions such as: What is the origin of the heavy elements in nature? What role do neutron star mergers and supernovae play? What powers the frequently observed x-ray bursts and what do observations tell us about neutron stars? What are the processes in the crusts of neutron stars that convert ordinary nuclei into exotic isotopes beyond the limits of neutron stability? Why do these processes generate not enough heat to explain observations?

These questions are addressed by carrying out different types of experiments using a broad range of detector systems, including NERO, GRETINA, and SuN to detect decay and reaction products, and measurements of the masses of very neutron rich nuclei using the S800 spectrometer and a set of specially developed micro channel plate and fast plastic detectors. A more recent direction are experiments using the unique low energy beams provided by the NSCL ReA3 facility to address questions in nuclear astrophysics. Our group uses and continues to develop the high density gas jet target JENSA, and employs the new neutron detector HABANERO to measure reactions that create elements in supernova explosions. Our group also plays a leading role in the construction and commissioning of the SECAR recoil separator, a new instrument that will enable the direct measurement of very slow astrophysical reactions. SECAR is being commissioned, and experiments are planned starting 2020. Thesis projects are available in all these areas.
Our experiments are not performed in isolation but are embedded into a network of astrophysical model calculations and astronomical observations supported by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA-CEE) a multi institutional NSF Physics Frontiers Center. Graduate students in our group become part of JINA-CEE and participate in all stages of this process. The goal of JINA- CEE is to provide a fully interdisciplinary education that is a pre-requisite for a successful career in this field.

While students go through the complete nuclear physics graduate course sequence, their education is complemented by participation in JINA-CEE schools (often held internationally), through research stays at JINA-CEE collaborating institutions in the US and abroad, and by carrying out astrophysical model calculations as part of their research, for example, to motivate their experiments, or to interpret their experimental results. Our group has a suite of astrophysical models that are available for use and further development at MSU. Alternatively collaborations with JINA-CEE partners in theoretical astrophysics can be used to carry out more sophisticated model calculations, such as multi-zone X-ray burst or multi-dimensional supernova simulations. In addition, students will develop collaborative connections with other JINA-CEE graduate students and postdocs at other institutions, as well with established researchers in nuclear physics, astrophysics, and astronomy.

Accreting neutron star

Artist's view of a neutron star that accreates matter from a companion.


Selected Publications

Status of the JENSA gas-jet target for experiments with rare isotope beams, K. Schmidt et al., Nuclear Inst. and Methods in Physics Research, A, Volume 911, p. 1-9 (2018)

Nuclear Reactions in the Crusts of Accreting Neutron Stars, R. Lau et al., The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 859, Issue 1, article id. 62, 22 pp. (2018)

Low-lying level structure of 56Cu and its implications for the rp process, W.-J. Ong et al., Physical Review C, Volume 95, Issue 5, id.055806 (2017)

A recoil separator for nuclear astrophysics SECAR, G.P.A. Berg et al., Nuclear Inst. and Methods in Physics Research, B, Volume 376, p. 165-167 (2016)