Neutron stars are basically giant cosmic bonbons, astrophysicists say

An illustration of two giant chocolates in space.

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

Astrophysicists modeling the interiors of neutron stars have discovered that extremely compact objects have different internal structures, depending on its mass. They suggest thinking about the stars like different kinds of chocolate praline, delightful, but that’s where the similarities end, at least as far as we know.

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

The gravitational fields of neutron stars are super intense. If a human observer were to approach one, it would be torn apart at the atomic level. Their The gravitational fields are so strong that a “mountain” in a neutron star would remain less than a millimeter in height.

The recent research team built millions of models to try discern the inner workings of these stars, which are notoriously difficult to study and, as a result, they are more in the domain of theory than of observation.

The researchers found that the lightest neutron stars, those with masses about 1.7 times that of our Sun and less—Should have soft mantles and rigid cores. The heaviest 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 and who led the research, likened the stars’ structure to chocolate pralines.

“Light stars resemble those chocolates that have a hazelnut in their centre surrounded by soft chocolate, whereas heavy stars can be considered more like those chocolates where a hard layer contains a soft filling,” Rezzolla said in a Goethe University Frankfurt release.

The researchers modeled more than a million possible scenarios for neutron star formation, based on expectations of the star’s mass, pressure, volume, and temperature, as well as astronomical observations of the objects.

Modeling is a crucial means of interrogating neutron stars.because only a few gadgets on Earth—CERN’s Large Hadron Collider Y SLAC material in extreme conditions instrument, for two, are capable of imitating such intense physics.

To determine the consistencies of the stars, the researchers modeled how the speed of sound would travel through the objects. Sound waves are also used to understand the internal structure of planets, since InSight lander has fearlessly made In mars.

An illustration showing a 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 the most massive neutron stars have a lower speed of sound in the central region than in its outer layers,” said Christian Ecker. , an astrophysicist at Goethe University, in an email to Gizmodo.

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

The researchers also found that all neutron stars are probably about 7.46 miles (12 km) wide, regardless of its mass. That measurement is less than half that of a Finding 2020 that the typical neutron star was about 13.6 miles (22 km) wide. Despite that size, the average mass of a neutron star is about half a million Earths. There is dense, and then there is dense.

While the findings offer insight into the diversity of neutron stars in terms of their consistency, the researchers did not investigate 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 suspect that neutron stars are neutrons to the end; others believe that the centers of the stars are exotic particle factories, hitherto unidentified.

But for the most part, these super-dense puzzles remain just that. Fortunately, there are observatories created 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’s material.

Projects such as NICER, NANOGrav, the CHIME radio telescope, and the LIGO and Virgo scientific collaborations are teaching physical about Size and structure of the neutron star.

More observational data can be fed into the models to get better estimates of the aspects of the stars. Ecker added that very massive neutron stars (in the two-solar-mass range) would be particularly useful to better constrain expectations of the physical characteristics of these extreme objects.

With a bit of luck, you may soon Get more details on the exact ingredients in these giant cosmic bonbons and how their recipes may differ depending on their size.

More: Extremely massive neutron star may be the largest ever seen

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