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The largest neutron star ever is inexplicably massive

The largest neutron star ever is inexplicably massive

George Hall

Everything in space is inhumanly large, heavy and far away. Earth is a frivolous planet, and the giant sun is a humble star. Distances are measured in light years, because the universe can only be controlled to some extent by the incredible travel speed of light. Sometimes it seems intentional. Anything we have to ask in that one message: You, dear ones, are not entirely universal.

You’re feeling the same way with the latest addition to the Space Chronicles books, described by astronomers this week in the magazine Astrophysical Journal Letters: the largest neutron star ever measured.

Now neutron stars are already very extreme phenomena. Massive stars are formed when they die in a catastrophic explosion called a supernova. In that extremely violent event, the remnants of such a star are compressed with unimaginable force. What remains is not like usual: one spoonful of a neutron star weighs as much as the entire Mount Everest.

neutron paste

To get a little control over those exotic stars, some astronomers are turning to — no, really — comparisons to Italian food.

It really starts just below the surface, where hundreds of neutrons get close to each other to form what’s called a ‘nuki’. Inward, where the pressure is higher, these become long tendons. That’s right: neutron spaghetti. More deeply, these tufts fuse in a plane (neutron lasagna) until a uniform mass of holes is formed, as if containing elongated tubes: penne neutron, neutron bucatini, or, if you prefer, the spaghetti-resist phase. the correct.

So much for theory, now for practice.

The star discovered by astronomers is called PSR J0952−0607 and is called a pulsar. Meaning: a neutron star spins like a kind of cosmic beacon and sends radiation into the universe. This spin is going at a record speed, but more importantly another record: the star is about 2.35 times the mass of our sun. Mass, by the way, he collected using his gravity to chew material from his partner star, which is what earned him the nickname “black widow,” after the female spider that eats her partners.

Computer graphics of a pulsar (right) slowly stealing material from its partner star (left)NASA/Dana Berry photo

Same particles as humans

Since physicists know that there comes a point where a neutron star cannot withstand its own gravitational pressure and then collapse into a black hole, it is helpful to know where that upper bound is. Then you know how stable the star is in supporting itself, and that reveals something about the properties of that dense interior.

If PSR J0952−0607 is related to the heaviest possible neutron star, then it consists of “ordinary” particles inside, the researchers wrote: neutrons and up and down quarks, for those in the know. The same particles that make up humans, ordinary planets and stars. But if a much heavier variant is discovered in the future, it could contain even more exotic particles, which you can only find on Earth in particle accelerators.

Then say goodbye again with that human touch.

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