The universe has some very extreme places in it – and there are few places more extreme than the surface of a neutron star. These ultradense objects form after a supergiant star collapses into a sphere about 10 kilometers (6 miles) in diameter. Their surface is extreme because of the gravity, which is about a billion times stronger than Earth. However, that gravity also forces the stellar remnant to be extraordinarily flat. Just how flat is the outcome of a new set of theoretical research by PhD student Fabian Gittins from the University of Southampton.Continue reading “Neutron Stars Have Mountains, They’re Just a Fraction of a Millimeter High”
About 97% of all stars in our Universe are destined to end their lives as white dwarf stars, which represents the final stage in their evolution. Like neutron stars, white dwarfs form after stars have exhausted their nuclear fuel and undergo gravitational collapse, shedding their outer layers to become super-compact stellar remnants. This will be the fate of our Sun billions of years from now, which will swell up to become a red giant before losing its outer layers.
Unlike neutron stars, which result from more massive stars, white dwarfs were once about eight times the mass of our Sun or lighter. For scientists, the density and gravitational force of these objects is an opportunity to study the laws of physics under some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. According to new research led by researchers from Caltech, one such object has been found that is both the smallest and most massive white dwarf ever seen.Continue reading “A Nearby White Dwarf Might be About to Collapse Into a Neutron Star”
The interior of a neutron star is perhaps the strangest state of matter in the universe. The material is squeezed so tightly that atoms collapse into a sea of nuclear material. We still aren’t sure whether nucleons maintain their integrity in this state, or whether they dissolve into quark matter. To really understand neutron star matter we need to pull it apart to see how it works and to do that takes a black hole. This is why astronomers are excited about the recent discovery of not one, but two mergers between a neutron star and a black hole.Continue reading “Astronomers Detected a Black Hole-Neutron Star Merger, and Then Another Just 10 Days Later”
Two neutron stars. One is 50% more massive than the other, yet they are almost exactly the same size. The results have big implications for understanding what neutron stars are really made of.Continue reading “How Squeezable are Neutron Stars?”
If you’ve been following developments in astronomy over the last few years, you may have heard about the so-called “crisis in cosmology,” which has astronomers wondering whether there might be something wrong with our current understanding of the Universe. This crisis revolves around the rate at which the Universe expands: measurements of the expansion rate in the present Universe don’t line up with measurements of the expansion rate during the early Universe. With no indication for why these measurements might disagree, astronomers are at a loss to explain the disparity.
The first step in solving this mystery is to try out new methods of measuring the expansion rate. In a paper published last week, researchers at University College London (UCL) suggested that we might be able to create a new, independent measure of the expansion rate of the Universe by observing black hole-neutron star collisions.Continue reading “Black Hole-Neutron Star Collisions Could Finally Settle the Different Measurements Over the Expansion Rate of the Universe”
In theory, a black hole is easy to make. Simply take a lump of matter, squeeze it into a sphere with a radius smaller than the Schwarzschild radius, and poof! You have a black hole. In practice, things aren’t so easy. When you squeeze matter, it pushes back, so it takes a star’s worth of weight to squeeze hard enough. Because of this, it’s generally thought that even the smallest black holes must be at least 5 solar masses in size. But a recent study shows the lower bound might be even smaller.Continue reading “Smallest, Closest Black Hole Ever Discovered is Only 1,500 Light-Years Away”
Imagine you are a neutron star. You’re happily floating in space, too old to fuse nuclei in your core anymore, but the quantum pressure of your neutrons and quarks easily keeps you from collapsing under your own weight. You look forward to a long stellar retirement of gradually cooling down. Then one day you are struck by a tiny black hole. This black hole only has the mass of an asteroid, but it causes you to become unstable. Gravity crushes you as the black hole consumes you from the inside out. Before you know it, you’ve become a black hole.Continue reading “What's the Connection Between Stellar-Mass Black Holes and Dark Matter?”
A white dwarf isn’t your typical kind of star. While main sequence stars such as our Sun fuse nuclear material in their cores to keep themselves from collapsing under their own weight, white dwarfs use an effect known as quantum degeneracy. The quantum nature of electrons means that no two electrons can have the same quantum state. When you try to squeeze electrons into the same state, they exert a degeneracy pressure that keeps the white dwarf from collapsing.Continue reading “Strange Green Star is the Result of a Merger Between two White Dwarfs”
As we continue to search for dark matter particles, one thing is very clear: they cannot be any of the elementary particles we’ve discovered so far. The particles would need to have mass, but interact with light only weakly. Of the known particles, neutrinos fit that description, but neutrinos have a tiny mass, and aren’t nearly enough to explain dark matter. Some other kind of particle must make up the majority of dark matter.Continue reading “If Axions Explain Dark Matter, it Could be Possible to Detect Them Nearby Neutron Stars”
The Theory of Relativity predicted the existence of black holes and neutron stars. Einstein gets the credit for the theory because of his paper published in 1915, even though other scientists’ work helped it along. But regardless of the minds behind it, the theory predicted black holes, neutron stars, and the gravitational waves from their mergers.
It took about one hundred years, but scientists finally observed these mergers and their gravitational waves in 2015. Since then, the LIGO/Virgo collaboration has detected many of them. The collaboration has released a new catalogue of discoveries, along with a new infographic. The new infographic displays the black holes, neutron stars, mergers, and the other uncertain compact objects behind some of them.Continue reading “Merging Black Holes and Neutron Stars. All the Gravitational Wave Events Seen So Far in One Picture”