Atoms are made of three things: protons, neutrons, and electrons. Electrons are a type of fundamental particle, but protons and neutrons are composite particles made of up and down quarks. Protons have 2 ups and 1 down, while neutrons have 2 downs and 1 up. Because of the curious nature of the strong force, these quarks are always bound to each other, so they can never be truly free particles like electrons, at least in the vacuum of empty space. But a new study in Nature Communications finds that they can liberate themselves within the hearts of neutron stars.Continue reading “The Most Massive Neutron Stars Probably Have Cores of Quark Matter”
A neutron star is perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring and mysterious things in the Universe. Composed almost entirely of neutrons with no net electrical charge, they are the final phase in the life-cycle of a giant star, born of the fiery explosions known as supernovae. They are also the densest known objects in the universe, a fact which often results in them becoming a black hole if they undergo a change in mass.
For some time, astronomers have been confounded by this process, never knowing where or when a neutron star might make this final transformation. But thanks to a recent study by a team of researchers from Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, it may now be possible to determine the absolute maximum mass that is required for a neutron star to collapse, giving birth to a new black hole.