Abstract: Stellar explosions and colliding neutron stars are important nucleosynthesis sources. While some of the astrophysical processes responsible for element creation are well understood, others have remained elusive for decades. Processes creating elements often involve short lived radioactive isotopes that can be produced at accelerator facilities. Studies with these isotopes allow us to constrain the relevant nuclear reaction rates so one can understand in the laboratory how elements are created.
In this talk, I will focus on the lighter heavy elements of the first r-process peak, between strontium and silver, and will review the important role that nuclear reactions play in understanding stellar explosions. I will discuss recent endeavors to experimentally constraint some of the relevant nuclear reaction rates and will emphasize the role of the newly commissioned SECAR (SEparator for CApture Reactions) recoil separator at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) as well as new initiatives, and plans for the future.