Neutron Stars Might Have a Bizarre Type of Matter

neutron

Neutron stars are considered to be the most intriguing objects in the Universe. 

Previously, astronomers found a thick “nuclear pasta” underneath their crusts. Now, they have proof that the cores of the most massive neutron stars comprise a bizarre “soup” of subatomic particles dubbed quarks. Here is what you need to know.

Neutron Stars’ Type of Matter is More Intriguing Than Previously Believed

Physicists have realized new measurements utilizing data from gravitational waves first spotted from a neutron star collision in August 2017. They also observed lots of unexpectedly massive neutron stars. Their conclusion hints at an astonishing result: the cores of the most massive neutron stars are so thick that atomic nuclei halt to exist, condensing into quark matter. 

The researchers describe such a thing as a significant milestone in comprehending the odd innards of those massive cosmic features. 

“Confirming the existence of quark cores inside neutron stars has been one of the most important goals of neutron star physics,” detailed Aleksi Vuorinen, theoretical physicist a the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki Insitute of Physics. 

Neutron stars are very odd yet surprising. They represent the collapsed fragments of massive stars. And when these stars go supernova, most of their mass is discharged into space; what’s left turns into an extremely dense object. 

The resulting neutron stars can reach approximately 1.1 and 2.3 solar masses, fitted into a solid, but small sphere of 10 to 20 kilometers across. And when the core-collapse, a supernova happens. The electrons and protons in the atoms that form the object are packed into neutrinos and neutrons.

The neutrinos can escape, while the neutrons remain under high-pressure conditions, fusing and making the neutron star one massive nucleus, with a density over 100 trillion times that of water at the root of the crust. 

But density should rise the deeper it goes, and this where the concept of quark matter cores kick in. Quarks are known as fundamental subatomic fragments that blend to form composite particles such as neutrons and protons. So, you can probably understand where this is going. For a time, astronomers have theorized that, under high-enough density and heat, neutrons shred further into their constituent quarks, forming a kind of quark soup. 

The finding of quark matter inside neutron stars wouldn’t be just fantastic. It could also help learn more about the very earliest periods of our Universe. 

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