The universe contains objects that are so amazing and exotic that it’s hard for our human brains to comprehend. There are extremely giant structures of galaxies and matter, billions of light-years across held together by gravity. Unimaginably large stars that are classified as “Hypergiants” which are thousands of times larger than our Sun exist in our Universe. The most commonly known “exotic” aspect of our Universe is probably supermassive black holes that are millions of times more massive than our Sun. To me, it makes sense that all of these unfamiliar objects and cool things exist since our Universe is so inconceivably large. Meaning that I won’t be surprised if we find weird things in such a large Universe. But at the same time, it’s just incredible to think that these objects do exist because they are just so foreign.
Neutron stars are really cool and unlike black holes, I think that they’re a less widely known object in our Universe. That’s what persuaded me to research more about neutron stars.
A neutron star is one of the end states of a star that has a really high mass. Usually, a star that has a mass between 4 to 8 times larger than our Sun can form a neutron star. When a massive star runs out of fuel to power nuclear fusion reactions it explodes in an event called a supernova. Although most layers of the star are gone, the supernova reaction still leaves behind the core of the star.
However, this core is very unstable. To counter the supernova explosion, the core rapidly collapses and it squeezes the electrons and the protons in it. As the core gets denser, the electrons and the protons form neutrons and neutrinos. The neutrinos are able to escape but the soup of neutrons gets even denser. Now, if the star in this current state has a mass more than 3 solar masses it will form a black hole. However, if it doesn’t, the neutrons will pack together until the density reaches the density of an atomic nucleus.
In the end, the result is an extremely dense soup of neutrons, logically called a neutron star.
Cool Facts and Other Information
Due to being born from an extremely violent explosion, neutron stars conserve angular momentum. Meaning that they spin on their axis incredibly rapidly. They can spin around 43000 times per minute. However, they do eventually slow down.
As mentioned before neutrons stars have a really high density. To put things in perspective, a teaspoon of a neutron star will weigh around a billion tons! They have such a high mass that they can bend light to a significant degree. So sometimes, astronomers can actually see the back of the star because the light is being bent around to the front!
Furthermore, they’re usually 10 to 20 km in diameter.
In addition, neutron stars have an extremely strong magnetic field. A neutron star’s magnetic field is usually a hundred million times stronger than the strongest man-made one. Since they have such a strong magnetic field they tend to emit strong pulses of radiation in regular intervals.
In 1967, before the discovery of neutron stars, scientists detected these regular pulses of radiation. Many people were speculating that it was coming from extra-terrestrial beings. However, after more investigating scientists became aware of the existence of neutron stars. Unfortunately, for conspiracy theorists and alien enthusiasts, the hypothesis of extra-terrestrial communication was debunked.
Personally, I think that neutron stars are really cool because they exist in such an extreme state. They are super powerful and it’s crazy to think that a teaspoon of an object smaller than the moon weighs a billion tons. Overall, that was some cool facts and information about neutron stars.