3 English 9H
17 October 2016
Neutron Stars: Voracious Beasts of the sky
Neutron stars are one of the most extreme planetary objects in the universe. They’re like giant atom cores; kilometers in diameter, unbelievably dense and violent. But how can something like this even exist? The life of a star is dominated by two forces being in balance. Its own gravity and the radiation pressure of its fusion reaction. In the core of stars, hydrogen is fused into helium. Eventually, the hydrogen in the core is exhausted. If the star is massive enough, helium is now fused into carbon. The cores of these massive stars become layered like onions, as heavier and heavier atomic nuclei build up at the center. Carbon is fused into neon, which leads to oxygen, which leads to silicon. Eventually, the fusion reaction hits iron, which cannot fuse into another element. When the fusion stops, the radiation pressure drops rapidly. The star is no longer in balance, and if its core mass exceeds about 1.4 solar masses, a catastrophic collapse takes place. The outer part of the core reaches velocities of up to 70,000 km/s, as it collapses towards the center of the star. Now, only the fundamental forces inside an atom are left to fight the gravitational collapse. The quantum-mechanical repulsion of electrons is overcome, and electrons and protons fuse into neutrons packed as densely as an atomic nucleus. The outer layers of the star are catapulted into space in a violent supernova explosion. So as a result, we have a neutron star. Neutron Stars are massive cosmic phenomenon’s that permeates the entire universe and bends the laws of physics.
Its mass is between 1 and 3 Suns, but compressed to an object about 25 kilometers wide! And 500,000 times the mass of Earth, in this tiny ball that’s roughly the diameter of Manhattan. It’s so dense that one cubic centimeter of neutron star contains the same mass as an iron cube 700 meters across. That’s roughly 1 billion tons, as massive as Mount Everest, in a space the size of a sugar cube. Neutron star gravity is pretty impressive too! If you were to drop an object from 1 meter over the surface, it...