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What are Neutron Stars?

Updated on July 25, 2014
Artist's impression of a Neutron Star
Artist's impression of a Neutron Star | Source

What actually is a Neutron Star?

A neutron star is the result of one of the final stages of a massive star's life. It is a small stellar remnant that is incredibly dense yet small. To give you an idea of its density, a typical neutron star is around 260,000,000,000,000 to 410,000,000,000,000 times the density of the Sun. However, the Sun's radius is around 60,000 times bigger than a typical neutron star - the equivalent of squashing a Boeing 747 into the size of a sugar cube. The incredibly dense nature of this bizarre phenomenon causes untold effects on the surrounding area, and causes the dead star to have amazing properties. For example, a neutron stars density causes its gravitational pull to be so strong, that any matter that got affected by its gravitational field it would be accelerated at an insane speed towards the star. The immense force caused by the impact would obliterate the object, rendering all the matter identical as it becomes single neutrons and protons. In fact, the pull of gravity on a neutron star is so strong that you'd need to travel at 100,000 km/s in order to escape, provided you hadn't yet been reduced to nothingness.

Artist Impression of a Pulsar
Artist Impression of a Pulsar | Source

Neutron stars are fantastically strange, with a gravitational field 200,000,000,000 times that of the Earth, these bad boys cause some unique occurrences in the cosmos. They rotate incredibly fast too, moving at almost 700 revolutions per second. This, coupled with the large gravitational and magnetic fields of the star, creates a giant electric generator, pulsing electrical currents in all directions as it spins. This is called a pulsar. The energy present on neutron stars is so high that if you were to drop a marshmallow onto one, it would have the same energy as an atomic bomb. The stars also fire huge jets of gamma rays when something collides with them, e.g. asteroids. The gamma rays are so strong and intense that if such an outburst happened in our galaxy it could cause mass extinction on earth, with an equivalent of over 1,000,000 atomic bombs going off at once.

Earthquakes on Neutron Stars

Some Neutron stars have magnetic fields around a quadrillionth the size of the Earth's. These are called Magnetars and this kind of field causes a tremendous strain on the crust of the star. This can, on rare occasion, cause the crust of the star to crack, and cause an Earthquake (or Magnetarquake if you're being picky). Despite Magnetars, like other Neutron Stars, having a diameter of around 20 kilometres, these earthquakes are some of the most violent events in the universe.

There are approximately 2000 known neutron stars in our galaxy, and it's incredible to think that such amazing phenomena are just out there in our neighbour hood. Neutron stars are incredible fascinating, creating environments we couldn't dream of ever reproducing on Earth and intriguing scientists for years. We are still discovering new things about them each year, as we are with the universe around us and its exciting to think of what we'll learn next about the seemingly stranger world we live in.

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this you may also like:

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    • profile image

      Moon 2 years ago

      You've hit the ball out the park! Inbdlricee!

    • profile image

      Tamber 2 years ago

      Thinking like that is really imivsespre

    • itsmejohnsmith profile image
      Author

      George Lancaster 4 years ago from London

      I think you will find 'a quadrillionth' and 'a quadrillion times' are the same thing http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/quadrillionth . -and yes I mean what I have written, 'galaxy'. We would know if there were a Neutron Star in our solar system by the effects caused by its magnetic and gravitational fields.

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      Mike 4 years ago

      Do you mean 'a quadrillionth' or 'a quadrillion times': "Some Neutron stars have magnetic fields around a quadrillionth the size of the Earth's."

      Do you really mean 'galaxy' or do you mean 'solar system': "The gamma rays are so strong and intense that if such an outburst happened in our galaxy it could cause mass extinction on earth."

    • itsmejohnsmith profile image
      Author

      George Lancaster 4 years ago from London

      Thanks for taking time to read and comment, and thank you for your kind words!

    • Caleb DRC profile image

      Caleb DRC 4 years ago

      Jam packed full of information--good job.