The most accurate measurement of a neutron star ever made

Hyperaxion Mar 13, 2020

According to new research, the star is extremely dense: it is about 1.4 times heavier than our Sun, but has a radius of only 11 kilometers.

A team of astronomers has come up with the most accurate measurement of a neutron star ever made. According to an article published on Nature Astronomy, the typical neutron star is about 1.4 times heavier than our Sun and has a radius of approximately 11 kilometers.

The most accurate measurement of a neutron star ever made
A typical neutron star with a radius of 11 kilometers is as big as a medium-sized German city. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center).

Neutron stars are extremely dense and difficult to observe because they emit little light that can be observed by the technologies we have here on Earth. To study them, therefore, scientists focus on detecting the pulses they send – especially after two of them merge.

“Binary neutron star mergers are a gold mine of information!” said Collin Capano, lead author of the study, in a statement. “Neutron stars contain the densest matter in the observable universe. In fact, they are so dense and compact, that you can think of the entire star as a single atomic nucleus, scaled up to the size of a city. By measuring these objects’ properties, we learn about the fundamental physics that governs matter at the sub-atomic level.”

In this research specifically, astronomers studied the marge of GW170817, which was observed thanks to the gravitational waves and the electromagnetic spectrum produced by the event in August 2017. For that, the team relied on a model of the fundamental principles of how subatomic particles interact in dense materials like neutron stars.

Read more: Can a habitable planet orbit a black hole?

The group demonstrated in this article that theoretical calculations on scales of less than 1 trillionth of a millimeter, for example, can be compared to the observations of an astrophysical object located more than 100 million light-years away. “It’s a bit mind-boggling,” said Capano. “GW170817 was caused by the collision of two city-sized objects 120 million years ago, when dinosaurs were walking around here on Earth. This happened in a galaxy a billion trillion kilometers away. From that, we have gained insight into sub-atomic physics.”

Related topics:

Neutron star

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