Heavy atomic nuclei have an excess of neutrons over protons, which leads to the formation of a neutron skin whose thickness is sensitive to details of the nuclear force. This links atomic nuclei to properties of neutron stars, thereby relating objects that differ in size by orders of magnitude. The nucleus 208Pb is of particular interest because it exhibits a simple structure and is experimentally accessible. However, computing such a heavy nucleus has been out of reach for ab initio theory. By combining advances in quantum many-body methods, statistical tools and emulator technology, we make quantitative predictions for the properties of 208Pb starting from nuclear forces that are consistent with symmetries of low-energy quantum chromodynamics. We explore 109 different nuclear force parameterizations via history matching, confront them with data in select light nuclei and arrive at an importance-weighted ensemble of interactions. We accurately reproduce bulk properties of 208Pb and determine the neutron skin thickness, which is smaller and more precise than a recent extraction from parity-violating electron scattering but in agreement with other experimental probes. This work demonstrates how realistic two- and three-nucleon forces act in a heavy nucleus and allows us to make quantitative predictions across the nuclear landscape.
- Pub Date:
- October 2022
- Nuclear Theory;
- Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena;
- Nuclear Experiment
- Published in Nature Physics. 21 pages including Methods and Extended data sections, 3 figures in the main text plus 10 extended data display items. Source data is included as ancillary files