James Michael Lattimer (born 12 April 1950 in Marion, Indiana)[1] is a nuclear astrophysicist who works on the dense nuclear matter equation of state and neutron stars.


Lattimer completed his BSc in 1972 at the University of Notre Dame and his PhD in 1976 at the University of Texas at Austin. After postdocs at the University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in 1979 he became a professor at Stony Brook University and in 2013 became a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy.[2] He is an American Physical Society Fellow (2001), and has received a Guggenheim (J.S.) Fellowship (1999), a Sloan (Alfred P.) Fellowship (1982), and the Fullam (Ernest F.) Award from Dudley Observatory (1985).[3] In 2015, Lattimer was awarded the Hans Bethe Prize[4] for "outstanding theoretical work connecting observations of supernovae and neutron stars with neutrino emission and the equation of state of matter beyond nuclear density."

He is the associate editor of the Physical Review Letters.[5]

Lattimer has made several fundamental contributions to the field of nuclear astrophysics, with a particular focus on neutron stars. One of his biggest impacts [6] was modeling the birth of neutron stars from supernovae in 1986 with then-research assistant professor Adam Burrows. This came just six months before the closest supernova in modern history (SN 1987A, in the LMC). Their paper [7] predicted the signature of neutrinos from supernovae that was subsequently validated by neutrino observations,[8][9] from SN 1987A on Feb. 23, 1987.

In work[10][11] that led to his PhD thesis, Lattimer and his advisor David N. Schramm first argued that the mergers of neutron stars and black holes would result in the ejection of neutron-rich matter in sufficient quantities to explain the origin of r-process elements such as gold and platinum. Later, with collaborators,[12] he demonstrated decompressing neutron-star matter from both neutron star-black holes and neutron star-neutron star mergers would form a natural r-process that would match observed patterns. Mass ejection and r-process nucleosynthesis from decompression has been apparently observed[13] in the aftermath of GW170817, the first merger of two neutron stars detected by LIGO/VIRGO.[14] The inferred r-process mass seems sufficient that neutron star mergers are likely the dominant source of these nuclides.

Lattimer and collaborators[15] also proposed that the recently observed[16] rapid cooling of the neutron star in the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant is the first direct evidence for superfluidity and superconductivity in neutron star interiors.[17] He has collaborated extensively with Madappa Prakash.

American Men and Women of Science, Thomson Gale 2004
Stony Brook Astronomy webpage
Department of Physics and Astronomy Award List, Stony Brook University
APS Hans A. Bethe Prize
"PRL Journal Staff". 2007-12-03.
based on citations from the Astrophysics Data System
Burrows, A.; Lattimer, J. M. (1986). "The birth of neutron stars". The Astrophysical Journal. IOP Publishing. 307: 178. Bibcode:1986ApJ...307..178B. doi:10.1086/164405. ISSN 0004-637X.
Bionta, R. M.; Blewitt, G.; Bratton, C. B.; Casper, D.; Ciocio, A.; et al. (1987-04-06). "Observation of a neutrino burst in coincidence with supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud". Physical Review Letters. American Physical Society (APS). 58 (14): 1494–1496. Bibcode:1987PhRvL..58.1494B. doi:10.1103/physrevlett.58.1494. ISSN 0031-9007. PMID 10034451.
Hirata, K.; Kajita, T.; Koshiba, M.; Nakahata, M.; Oyama, Y.; et al. (1987-04-06). "Observation of a neutrino burst from the supernova SN1987A". Physical Review Letters. American Physical Society (APS). 58 (14): 1490–1493. Bibcode:1987PhRvL..58.1490H. doi:10.1103/physrevlett.58.1490. ISSN 0031-9007. PMID 10034450.
Lattimer, J. M.; Schramm, D. N. (1974). "Black-hole-neutron-star collisions". The Astrophysical Journal. IOP Publishing. 192: L145. Bibcode:1974ApJ...192L.145L. doi:10.1086/181612. ISSN 0004-637X.
Lattimer, J. M.; Schramm, D. N. (1976). "The tidal disruption of neutron stars by black holes in close binaries". The Astrophysical Journal. IOP Publishing. 210: 549. Bibcode:1976ApJ...210..549L. doi:10.1086/154860. ISSN 0004-637X.
Lattimer, J. M.; Mackie, F.; Ravenhall, D. G.; Schramm, D. N. (1977). "The decompression of cold neutron star matter". The Astrophysical Journal. IOP Publishing. 213: 225. Bibcode:1977ApJ...213..225L. doi:10.1086/155148. ISSN 0004-637X.
Chornock, R.; Berger, E.; Kasen, D.; Cowperthwaite, P. S.; Nicholl, M.; et al. (2017-10-16). "The Electromagnetic Counterpart of the Binary Neutron Star Merger LIGO/Virgo GW170817. IV. Detection of Near-infrared Signatures of r-process Nucleosynthesis with Gemini-South". The Astrophysical Journal. American Astronomical Society. 848 (2): L19. arXiv:1710.05454. Bibcode:2017ApJ...848L..19C. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aa905c. ISSN 2041-8213.
Abbott, B. P.; Abbott, R.; Abbott, T. D.; Acernese, F.; Ackley, K.; et al. (2017-10-16). "GW170817: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Neutron Star Inspiral". Physical Review Letters. American Physical Society (APS). 119 (16): 161101. arXiv:1710.05832. Bibcode:2017PhRvL.119p1101A. doi:10.1103/physrevlett.119.161101. ISSN 0031-9007. PMID 29099225.
Page, Dany; Prakash, Madappa; Lattimer, James M.; Steiner, Andrew W. (2011-02-22). "Rapid Cooling of the Neutron Star in Cassiopeia A Triggered by Neutron Superfluidity in Dense Matter". Physical Review Letters. 106 (8): 081101. arXiv:1011.6142. Bibcode:2011PhRvL.106h1101P. doi:10.1103/physrevlett.106.081101. ISSN 0031-9007. PMID 21405561.
Heinke, Craig O.; Ho, Wynn C. G. (2010-08-02). "Direct Observation of the Cooling of the Cassiopeia a Neutron Star". The Astrophysical Journal. IOP Publishing. 719 (2): L167–L171. arXiv:1007.4719. Bibcode:2010ApJ...719L.167H. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/719/2/l167. ISSN 2041-8205.
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