(Submitted March 21, 2008)
How do energetic cosmic rays produce lithium from elements such as
nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen? If cosmic rays interact with the elements
listed above, forming lithium, how?
The direct effect is that cosmic rays collide with a nucleus of
nitrogen, carbon, or oxygen and split it apart into (usually) two
parts - one of which can be lithium.
Cosmic rays that are themselves CNO nuclei can hit interstellar
hydrogen and be split into smaller nuclei. That process means that
cosmic rays have a much higher proportion of Li, Be, and B than other
samples of matter.
See the discussion here (which is part of a larger discussion - use
the navigation buttons at the bottom of the page to find the beginning
Jay and Jeff
for Ask an Astrophysicist