Researchers discover extremely dense neutron star 4,600 light-years from Earth

Humza

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Neutron stars are one of the universe's most striking creations, formed by huge exploding stars (supernovas) that collapse into a formation of small city-size spheres. Given enough density, these go on to form quark stars and might eventually turn into black holes.

Following the law of conservation of angular momentum, neutron stars spin at incredibly fast rates (quickest record is a reported 1122 rotations/second) owing to their huge mass and tiny size. These stars emit high-energy beams and are sometimes called "pulsars," depending on which way these beams are pointing towards Earth during the star's rotation.

One such neutron star (pulsar) was recently spotted by astronomers at West Virginia University, which packs 2.14 times the Sun's mass into the compact size of a small city. For reference, a sugar cube from this star would weigh 100 million tons on Earth. Located 4,600 light years away, the team happened to land on this discovery while searching for gravitational waves.

The J0740+6620 beats out two previous contenders, the J1614-2230 and J0348+0432, and has pushed the upper limit of neutron masses that now exceeds twice that of the Sun. Lead author Thankful Cromartie commented on the discovery, saying that it "is interesting because it informs our understanding of how supernovae form neutron stars (and how massive the progenitor stars must be)," and that they'd need to refine models of stellar evolution and supernovae explosions to account for such extremely massive neutron stars.

The researchers were able to determine this neutron star's mass because of how it interacted with its companion star. As the two bodies orbit each other, their immense space-warping gravity distort the radiant pulses emitted by J0740+6620. As a result, the light from this pulsar was found to travel slightly farther, a phenomenon called "Shapiro Delay".

This delay allowed the team to estimate the mass of the companion star and subsequently J0740+6620, which turned out to be the biggest neutron yet known to scientists. "The orientation of this binary star system created a fantastic cosmic laboratory," said Scott Ransom, study co-author and an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

He further said that such neutron stars have a tipping point where their "interior densities get so extreme that the force of gravity overwhelms even the ability of neutrons to resist further collapse. Each 'most massive' neutron star we find brings us closer to identifying that tipping point and helping us to understand the physics of matter at these mind-boggling densities."

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This is all very beguiling, but it's so far away that we can't truly "study" it and we don't have the mass, the gravity or the energy on Earth to conduct experiments to replicate these conditions.
 
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VitalyT

Russ-Puss
we don't have the mass, the gravity or the energy on Earth to conduct experiments to replicate these conditions.
Thanks God for that, 'cos the solar system could be gone in a flash. That would be quite an experiment.
 
This is all very beguiling, but it's so far away that we can't truly "study" it and we don't have the mass, the gravity or the energy on Earth to conduct experiments to replicate these conditions.
For once we actually agree. It IS beguiling, since neutron stars don't even exist and we can't even photograph nearby local stars (like Sirius, Bernard's, or Centauri) - but somehow these faux scientists can hide in magically-generated data holes at 4,600 light years away.

Neutrons "decay" within just a few minutes outside the nucleus, which is an archaic way of saying they are despun by the ambient charge field into electrons or positrons or their last spin is flipped and they become protons. Neutrons cannot just "stick together" via gravity. Any time neutrons collide, they are no longer neutrons. There is no baryonic matter just made of neutrons, anywhere we've ever actually seen.

Neutron stars are just a hypothesis these phonies use to (poorly, wrongly) explain a certain mass and density from, again, so far away they can't even SEE the object.

That's why they have to use crappy CGI instead of, say, Hubble to spot these things. They only exist in bad math, not in actual physical reality.
 
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neeyik

TS Guru
Staff member
For once we actually agree. It IS beguiling, since neutron stars don't even exist and we can't even photograph nearby local stars (like Sirius, Bernard's, or Centauri) - but somehow these faux scientists can hide in magically-generated data holes at 4,600 light years away.
Even if one assumes that they don't exist, the object, whatever it is, emits electromagnetic waves that can be easily detected. The companion star emits visible light which, again, can be clearly detected. Barnard's Star and Proxima Centauri are both dwarf stars, which puts the angular resolution required to resolve any surface features beyond any telescope we currently have, and in the case of the former, it mostly emits in the infra red region which, due to its lower wavelength, makes the star even harder to revolve. However, they and Sirius A and B have all been imaged, and directly so. So all the objects mentioned can be observed in some manner, either by their own electromagnetic emissions, fundamental particle emissions, or interactions with other nearby objects - if they didn't, their existence would be undetected.

Neutrons "decay" within just a few minutes outside the nucleus, which is an archaic way of saying they are despun by the ambient charge field into electrons or positrons or their last spin is flipped and they become protons.
The neutrons in neutron stars don't decay, because the presence of protons and electrons within the structure prevent this (due to the exclusion principle). If they could, they would. Arguably, the term 'neutron star' is a bit of a misnomer, but it's than saying 'a degenerate matter object, of neutron, protons, electrons and other fundamental particles existing in a state where almost all available quantum states are 'filled' by the protons and electrons, preventing any further weak interactions.' The latter is far more correct than just 'neutron stars' but it's kind of a drag every time one wants to write or talk about 'neutron stars'.

Neutrons cannot just "stick together" via gravity. Any time neutrons collide, they are no longer neutrons. There is no baryonic matter just made of neutrons, anywhere we've ever actually seen.
Particles never truly collide, they just 'interact' and the strong interaction between neutrons binds them quite nicely. If it didn't, atomic nuclei heavier than H1 wouldn't exist. If you're referring to having a large number of neutrons existing together, the instability of such a situation, can be overcome by the exclusion principle (if there are no available quantum states to decay into, the decay won't take place) and an another force, if it's of a suitable magnitude. Gravity can scale to the required level, just as it does to overcome Coulomb repulsion in stellar cores, like that in our Sun.

This is all very beguiling, but it's so far away that we can't truly "study" it and we don't have the mass, the gravity or the energy on Earth to conduct experiments to replicate these conditions.
This is where there is difference between being able to study something from a distance and being able to replicate it exactly in laboratory conditions. It's no different to, say, studying the Moon: we cannot create the same gravitational behaviour as experienced on the surface of the Moon on the planet. We can simulate it, with the obvious caveats that it isn't truly the same, and we can study it, either first hand or via its interactions with the other objects, such as orbiting satellites. This done by simply monitoring the motion of the satellite, either directly onboard using appropriate sensors, or by monitoring the signals it emits. The same is true for a distance object, orbiting another object - the mass of Jupiter is known very precisely, partly because we've had and still have satellites in orbit around it, but also because we can examine the electromagnetic emissions of its moons. Those signals provide the details required to map out the moons' changes in motion, which then give us a map of the gravitational field of the plant.
 

PurpleYoda

TS Enthusiast
^^ Damn, you just beat me to it, I was writing same thing when you posted your reply, kudos to you! I'm on my mobile so it takes ages to write a reply...
 

PEnnn

TS Addict
This is all very beguiling, but it's so far away that we can't truly "study" it and we don't have the mass, the gravity or the energy on Earth to conduct experiments to replicate these conditions.
For once we actually agree. It IS beguiling, since neutron stars don't even exist and we can't even photograph nearby local stars (like Sirius, Bernard's, or Centauri) - but somehow these faux scientists can hide in magically-generated data holes at 4,600 light years away.

Neutrons "decay" within just a few minutes outside the nucleus, which is an archaic way of saying they are despun by the ambient charge field into electrons or positrons or their last spin is flipped and they become protons. Neutrons cannot just "stick together" via gravity. Any time neutrons collide, they are no longer neutrons. There is no baryonic matter just made of neutrons, anywhere we've ever actually seen.

Neutron stars are just a hypothesis these phonies use to (poorly, wrongly) explain a certain mass and density from, again, so far away they can't even SEE the object.

That's why they have to use crappy CGI instead of, say, Hubble to spot these things. They only exist in bad math, not in actual physical reality.
Amazing! So, unless you could could actually see or physically touch a neutron star...it really doesn't exist and to hell with science!
And I bet you also think that unless your backyard pool or toilet boil over...there is really no climate change!!

What are you doing on a tech website?? You should be watching Faux News!!

PS: I guess that neutron star is not the only thing that's so immensely dense....;)
 
R

retsxel

This is all very beguiling, but it's so far away that we can't truly "study" it and we don't have the mass, the gravity or the energy on Earth to conduct experiments to replicate these conditions.
For once we actually agree. It IS beguiling, since neutron stars don't even exist and we can't even photograph nearby local stars (like Sirius, Bernard's, or Centauri) - but somehow these faux scientists can hide in magically-generated data holes at 4,600 light years away.

Neutrons "decay" within just a few minutes outside the nucleus, which is an archaic way of saying they are despun by the ambient charge field into electrons or positrons or their last spin is flipped and they become protons. Neutrons cannot just "stick together" via gravity. Any time neutrons collide, they are no longer neutrons. There is no baryonic matter just made of neutrons, anywhere we've ever actually seen.

Neutron stars are just a hypothesis these phonies use to (poorly, wrongly) explain a certain mass and density from, again, so far away they can't even SEE the object.

That's why they have to use crappy CGI instead of, say, Hubble to spot these things. They only exist in bad math, not in actual physical reality.
You're so wrong it almost seems on purpose. You are kidding with all that, right?
 

scavengerspc

TS Booster
"Over twice the mass of Sun and measures just 15 miles in diameter"

Incredible. Our sun is around 850,000 miles in diameter with half the mass.
You know, I would honestly love to own a personal galaxy class ship (Speed of light wont cut it) so I can witness some of this stuff.

I wonder how much they go for.
 
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Bohefus

TS Rookie
And I bet you also think that unless your backyard pool or toilet boil over...there is really no climate change!!
What are you doing on a tech website?? You should be watching Faux News!!
It's not whether climate change exists, it's to what extent does man contribute to it. The climate has changed since the beginning of time on earth. It's the radical leftists that believe that there's no room for discussion and that the world is ending every 10 years. Every strong storm to them is "proof" of climate change and that the U.S. needs to make drastic changes to prevent the world from ending. Enacting every "Green" policy in the U.S. would virtually make no difference in reversing climate change.
 

scavengerspc

TS Booster
It's not whether climate change exists, it's to what extent does man contribute to it. The climate has changed since the beginning of time on earth. It's the radical leftists that believe that there's no room for discussion and that the world is ending every 10 years. Every strong storm to them is "proof" of climate change and that the U.S. needs to make drastic changes to prevent the world from ending. Enacting every "Green" policy in the U.S. would virtually make no difference in reversing climate change.
sigh

"We'll stick our heads into the sand
Just pretend that all is grand
Then hope that everything turns out OK"

The Ostrich
Steppenwolf 1968
 

Bohefus

TS Rookie
sigh

"We'll stick our heads into the sand
Just pretend that all is grand
Then hope that everything turns out OK"

The Ostrich
Steppenwolf 1968
Regardless of how much the left says that there is a "consensus" among "scientists" that
climate change is a "existential" threat to life on the planet, we keep passing up the doomsday points in time( they seem to forget about) as climate activists like Al Gore get rich off of his propaganda.
 

scavengerspc

TS Booster
Regardless of how much the left says that there is a "consensus" among "scientists" that
climate change is a "existential" threat to life on the planet, we keep passing up the doomsday points in time( they seem to forget about) as climate activists like Al Gore get rich off of his propaganda.
I agree with that. But for every extreme Pro on climate change there are Cons who are downright dumb. Sen. Jim Inhofe brings a snowball into congress because it was cold outside and mysterious frozen water was falling from the sky. The temps in his area were very cold, so the entire global planet's climate change must be wrong.

He never mentioned that the 5 hottest summers on record all are in the last 5 years.
He never mentioned that the 8 of 10 hottest summers are in the last 20 years.
And last he never mentioned that while Earth has had a predictable heating\cooling cycle the current heating cycle started way earlier than historical records would have predicted.
And it started when people went industrial, started driving cars, and other transportation.

Not a coincidence.
 
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Bohefus

TS Rookie
I agree with that. But for every extreme Pro on climate change there are Cons who are downright dumb. Sen. Jim Inhofe brings a snowball into congress because it was cold outside and mysterious frozen water was falling from the sky. The temps in his area were very cold, so the entire global planet's climate change must be wrong.

He never mentioned that the 5 hottest summers on record all are in the last 5 years.
He never mentioned that the 8 of 10 hottest summers are in the last 20 years.
And last he never mentioned that while Earth has had a predictable heating\cooling cycle the current heating cycle started way earlier than historical records would have predicted.
And it started when people went industrial, started driving cars, and other transportation.

Not a coincidence.
I think that's a little presumptive to say that it started when people started using cars and factories. Like you said, there's been a predictable heating/cooling cycle going on for a long time. Even if there have been hotter than normal temps for a number of years, the average hasn't risen a whole lot. It's all just a play for power and control of a new green energy sector that Democrats want to be in charge of.
 
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scavengerspc

TS Booster
I think that's a little presumptive to say that it started when people started using cars and factories. Like you said, there's been a predictable heating/cooling cycle going on for a long time. Even if there have been hotter than normal temps for a number of years, the average hasn't risen a whole lot. It's all just a play for power and control of a new green energy sector that Democrats want to be in charge of.
Before I go from here let me ask one thing brother. Why is it always the "Democrats" you take aim at? This is far from a question of politics.
I think that's a little presumptive to say that it started when people started using cars and factories.
That is not my opinion. It is fact, and its easily researched.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
I only have one question. Why is 4600 light years relevant? Might as well be 46Billion light years away. We could never get there in our life time. It would take us a good portion of our life, just to take a trip around our own sun.
 

scavengerspc

TS Booster
I only have one question. Why is 4600 light years relevant? Might as well be 46Billion light years away. We could never get there in our life time. It would take us a good portion of our life, just to take a trip around our own sun.
I guess it might be just the learning experience.

I do find it fascinating though. 15 miles in diameter and it has more mass than our sun.
 
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cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
15 miles in diameter and it has more mass than our sun.
Call me a flat-earth-er if you want to. I don't believe that is possible. Someone screwed up their calculations somewhere.

You can choose to believe that theoretical fiction, if you want. I still believe the phrase don't believe everything you see or hear. And from several light years away (not to mention hundreds), anything can be deceiving.