Neutron stars are basically giant cosmic chocolates, say astrophysicists

Neutron stars are basically giant cosmic chocolates, say astrophysicists

An illustration of two giant pralines in space.

An illustration showing the inner workings of heavier (left) and lighter (right) neutron stars, imagined as pralines.
Drawing: Peter Kiefer and Luciano Rezzolla

Astrophysicists modeling the interiors of neutron stars have discovered that extremely compact objects have different internal structures, depending on their mass. They to suggest think of the stars like different types of chocolate praline, a delicious treat, but that’s where the similarities end, at least as far as we know.

Neutron stars are the extraordinarily dense corpses of massive stars that have imploded; they are second only to black holes in terms of density. Neutron stars are so named because their gravitational force causes their atoms electrons collapse on the protons, creating an object composed almost entirely of neutrons.

The gravitational fields of neutron stars are great intense. If a human observer approached it, he would be torn at the atomic level. Their gravitational fields are so strong that a “mountain” on a neutron star would rise less than a millimeter high.

The recent research team has built millions of models to try to discern the inner workings of these stars, which are remarkably difficult to study and, Therefore, are more a matter of theory than observation.

The researchers found that lighter neutron stars, those with a mass about 1.7 times that of our Sun and under– should have soft coats and hard cores. Heavier neutron stars have the opposite, according to the team’s findings, which were published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Luciano Rezzolla, an astrophysicist at the Institute of Theoretical Physics who led the research, compared the structure of stars to chocolate pralines.

“Light stars are like those chocolates that have a hazelnut in their center surrounded by soft chocolate, while heavy stars can be thought of more like those chocolates where a hard layer contains a soft filling,” Rezzolla said in a Goethe University of Frankfurt. Release.

Researchers have modeled over a million possible scenarios for the composition of neutron stars, based on expectations about the star’s mass, pressure, volume, and temperature, as well as astronomical observations of the objects.

Modeling is a crucial way to interrogate neutron starsbecause only a few craft on Earth—CERN Large Hadron Collider and SLAC material in extreme conditions instrument, for two, are able to imitate such intense physics.

To determine the consistencies of stars, the researchers modeled how the speed of sound would travel through objects. Sound waves are also used to understand the internal structure of planets, such as the The InSight lander fearlessly did on Mars.

An illustration showing one possible shell configuration of a neutron star.

“What we have shown, by building millions of equation of state models (from which the speed of sound can be calculated), is that maximally massive neutron stars have a lower speed of sound. in the central region than in their outer layers,” said Christian Ecker. , an astrophysicist at Goethe University, in an email to Gizmodo.

“This suggests a material change in their nuclei, such as a transition from baryonic matter to quark matter,” Ecker added.

The researchers also found that all neutron stars are likely about 7.46 miles (12 km) in diameter, regardless of their mass. This measurement is less than half that of a Report 2020 that the typical neutron star was about 13.6 miles (22 km) across. Despite this size, the average mass of neutron stars is about half a million earths. There is dense, and then there is dense.

Although the results offer insight into the diversity of neutron stars in terms of coherence, the researchers did not study the ingredients of the stars or how they fit together. (If you’ve made it this far, neutron stars aren’t actually made of chocolate.) Some suspects that neutron stars are neutrons all the way down; others believe that the centers of the stars are previously unidentified exotic particle factories.

But for the most part, these super dense puzzles remain just that. Fortunately, there are observatories set up to collect more direct data. Mergers (i.e. violent collisions) between neutron stars and with black holes can reveal the mass of the objects involved, as well as the nature of the neutron star material.

Projects like NICER, NANOGrav, the CHIME radio telescope and the LIGO and Virgo science collaborations all teach physicists about size and structure of neutron stars.

More observational data can be fed into the models for better estimates of star aspects. Ecker added that very massive neutron stars (on the order of two solar masses) would be particularly useful in better limiting expectations of the physical characteristics of these extreme objects.

Hopefully we might soon get more details on the exact ingredients of these giant cosmic pralines and how their recipes may differ depending on their size.

More: Extremely massive neutron star could be largest ever spotted

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