Imagine the Universe!
Imagine Home  |   Ask an Astrophysicist  |  
Ask an Astrophysicist

The Question

(Submitted October 06, 1996)

I have recently learned of the discovery of a new state of matter called the "neutron star" state, but I am unable to find any information regarding it, only that it is a new state of matter. If you have any information concerning this topic, please e-mail it to me. Your efforts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

The Answer

Thank you for your question regarding the neutron star state of matter. Yes, there is this state of matter, but unfortunately it is only found in the corpses of dead massive stars that have undergone a "supernova" explosion.

For information regarding neutron stars and supernovae on the world wide web you can look at Imagine the Universe! under the Basic and Advanced High-Energy Astrophysics sections. Or, any text book on astronomy will describe this as well.

Here is an additional explanation:

Neutron stars are compact objects that are created in from the core of massive stars during supernova explosions. Due to its massive weight, the core of the star collapses, and crushes together every proton with a corresponding electron turning each electron-proton pair into a neutron. The neutrons, however, can often stop the collapse and remain as a neutron star.

Neutron stars are fascinating objects, because they are the most dense objects known. They are only about 10 miles in diameter, yet they are more massive than the sun. One sugar cube of neutron star material weighs about 100 million tons, which is about as much as a mountain.

Like their less massive counterparts, white dwarfs, the heaver a neutron star gets the smaller it gets. Imagine if a 10 pound bag of flour was smaller than a 5 pound bag.

Neutron stars can be observed occasionally as an extremely small and hot star within a supernova remnant. However, they are more likely to be seen when they are a pulsar or part of an X-ray Binary.

Neutron stars are also speculated to be involved in other high energy phenomena that we still do not understand. Neutron stars are fascinating objects that are involved in many high energy phenomena.

Previous question
Main topic
Next question

Imagine the Universe is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Imagine Team
Acting Project Leader: Dr. Barbara Mattson
All material on this site has been created and updated between 1997-2012.

DVD Table of Contents
Educator's Index