The Wrath of a Neutron Star

In Physics, Space by Mystifact

The Universe is packed full of wonders. From different types of stars, galaxies, planets, black holes and many more – we are still yet to find out a lot more about them. In this post I will talk about Neutron Stars, and will hopefully explain what they are and what sort of damage they are capable of doing.

Neutron Stars

Neutron Stars form when some Stars die. I say ‘some’ because when Stars die, they can become different things which I will explain in a moment. Let’s talk about these different types of Stars:

  1. When the Star is roughly the same size as the Sun:
    When the core runs out of Hydrogen, it begins to die. Its core starts to contract because of its gravity, which generates immense amounts of heat. This heat causes the expansion of the star’s upper layers. The star is now known as a red giant. Eventually the core will get so hot it starts to fuse helium into carbon. When the helium fuel runs out, the core begins to expand and cool. Then the upper layers will further expand and eject material causing a planetary nebula. The core then cools into a white dwarf then further cools into a a black dwarf. This process takes a few billion years.

  2. When the Star is more massive than the Sun:
    The same steps as (1) occur but instead of the helium fuel running out, the core gets so hot that the mass is enough to fuse carbon into heavier elements such as neon – silicon – magnesium – sulfur – iron. It can now burn no longer. The star collapses by its own gravity and the iron core heats up. The core becomes so tightly packed that protons and electrons interact and form neutrons. The core which is roughly the size of the Earth, shrinks to a neutron core, with a radius of roughly 10 kilometres. The outer layers of this star fall inward onto this core which crushes the core even more. This core is now immensely packed full of energy and heat. In fact it is so hot, it heats to billions of degrees and explodes! This forms a supernova, and the core can then form a neutron star or a black hole.

How does the core become a Neutron Star?

Imagine a star which is 4-8 times more massive than our sun approaching the end of its lifetime. This means process number (2) explained above, occurs. When the core explodes and forms a supernova, it leaves behind a neutron rich core that continues to collapse. This causes protons and electrons to further interact to make more neutrons, making the core even more neutron rich. Hence the name; Neutron star.

What are the properties of Neutron Stars?

  1. They are shockingly small. Its radius is 10 kilometres which is the same length as a small city. If you were to roll up the distance from Manchester to London into a sphere, that is roughly the size of it. Incredible.

  2. They are incredibly dense. In fact so dense, that a teaspoon of neutron star would weigh a whopping 6 billion tons.

  3. Due to conservation of angular momentum, the star spins as fast as 43,000 times per minute!

  4. They have a huge gravitational force. Since all the particles in a neutron star are pulled together as tightly as possible, it has an immense mass. This means it must have an incredibly large gravitational pull. To escape a Neutron star, you would need to travel at 160,000 kilometres every single second. Comparing that to escaping the gravity of Earth (11.2 kilometres every second); you can see the difference.

What is this Neutron star capable of doing? What if one of these stars entered our solar system? I am going to leave you with this great video which will show you a well put together simulation that is definitely worth watching.

Neutron star vs. Earth:

If you have any questions, leave them below and until next time, take care.

~ Mystifact

Please note; no copyright infringement is intended. All images used have been labelled for re-use on Google Images. If any artist or designer has any issues with any of the content used in this article, please don’t hesitate to contact me to correct the issue.

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