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Neutron Stars Have Mountains That Are More Than A Millimeter Tall


Representation by an artist of a neutron star.

Representation by an artist of a neutron star.
Image: ESO / L. Road

A team of astrophysicists recently used new neutron star models to map mountains – small elevated areas – and otherwise perfectly spherical structures of stars. They found that the largest deviations were always extraordinarily small because of the intense gravitational pull, which extends to less than a millimeter in height.

Neutron stars are the dead nuclei of once huge stars that have collapsed into themselves. Iddi they are the densest objects in the Universe outside of black holes. They are called neutron stars because their gravity is as intense as the electrons in their atoms fall into the protons, forming neutrons. They are so compact that they pack a mass greater than that of our Sun in a sphere no wider than a city.

The team’s assessment of the “mountains” on these neutron stars comes into play two newspapers currently hosted on the arXiv pre-print server; together, the newspapers estimate how big these mountains can be. The results of the team are presented today at the National Astronomical Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Over the last two decades, there has been a lot of interest in understanding how big these mountains can be before the crust of the neutron star breaks, and the mountain can no longer be sustained,” said Fabian Gittins, astrophysicist at the ‘University of Southampton and principal author of the two journals, in a Royal Astronomical Society press release.

Previous work has indicated that the mountains of neutron stars could be a few inches high – several times larger than what the recent team has. dear. Previous calculations assumed that the neutron star would hold large sockets on its surface if it were striving to its limits, like Atlas supporting the world. But the recent modeling found that the above calculations are unrealistic behavior to expect from a neutron star.


The Crab Nebula, represented by the Hubble Space Telescope.  A neutron star is located at the heart of the structure, which is formed by a supernova.

“Over the last two decades, there has been a lot of interest in understanding how big these mountains can be before the neutron star’s crust breaks, and the mountain can no longer be supported,” Gittins explains in the statement.

Past work has suggested that neutron stars can support deviations from a perfect sphere up to a few parts in 1. million, involving mountains could be as large as a few inchess. These calculations assumed that the neutron star was stretched in such a way that the crust was close to breaking at any point. However, new models indicate that such conditions are unlikely.

“A neutron star has a fluid core, and an elastic crust and on top of that a thin fluid ocean. Every region is complicated, but we forget the fine picture.” Nils Andersson, co-author of the two journals and astrophysicist at the University of Southampton, said in an email. “What we’ve done is build models that connect these regions together correctly. This allows us to tell when and where the elastic crust breaks first. Previous models have assumed that the tension is maximum at all points in time and that it leads to (we think) estimated mountains that are a little too big ”.

These crustal performances would mean that energy from the mountain would be released into a larger area of ​​the star, Andersson said. While it’s based on computer models, the crust changes “won’t be dramatic enough to cause the star to collapse, however, because the crust region involves a fairly low-density material,” Andersson said.

Intriguing questions remain. There is a possibility, said Andersson, that after a first crustal rupture, larger mountains than the one the team modeled could happen due to u flow of matter through the surface of the star. But even those mountains would be a lot smaller than a mole, compressed by the immense gravity of the stars.

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