The abundances of the actinide elements in the cosmic rays can provide critical constraints on the major sites of their acceleration. Using recent calculations of the r-process yields in core collapse supernovae, we have determined the actinide abundances averaged over various assumed time intervals for their supernova generation and their cosmic-ray acceleration. Using standard Galactic chemical evolution models, we have also determined the expected actinide abundances in the present interstellar medium. From these two components, we have calculated the U/Th and other actinide abundances expected in the supernova-active cores of superbubbles, as a function of their ages and mean metallicity resulting from dilution with interstellar cloud debris. Then, using observations of the fractions of Galactic supernovae that occur in superbubbles and in the rest of the interstellar medium, we calculate the expected actinide abundances in cosmic rays accelerated by Galactic supernovae. We find that the current measurements of actinide/Pt-group and preliminary estimates of the UPuCm/Th ratio in cosmic rays are all consistent with the expected values if superbubble cores have mean metallicities of around 3 times solar. Such metallicities are quite comparable to the superbubble core metallicities inferred from other cosmic-ray observations. Future, more precise measurements of these ratios with experiments such as ECCO are needed to provide a better measure of the mean source metallicity sampled by the local Galactic cosmic rays. Measurements of the cosmic- ray actinide abundances have been favorably compared with the protosolar ratio, inferred from present solar system abundances, to infer that the cosmic rays are accelerated from the general interstellar medium. We suggest, however, that such an inference is not valid because the expected actinide abundances in the present interstellar medium are very different from the protosolar values, which sampled the interstellar medium 4.5 Gyr ago and included an additional fresh ejecta component from a neighboring supernova.
The Astrophysical Journal; Volume 591; 228-237