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The Question

(Submitted April 12, 2002)

Recently I read an article about a new type of star. They call it a strange quark star. It is like a neutron star (composed of neutrons) except it is made of quarks. The article said that there was one detected 400 light-yrs away. Is this actually true? do you have any other information on the subject?

The Answer

This is quite an interesting discovery. I may be misrepresenting it slightly, as I haven't read the whole paper, but I would say the big discovery here is that the star in question appears to be as massive as a neutron star but smaller in diameter than a neutron star can be.

Possible answers are that the diameter is not as small as we think, neutron stars can in fact be much smaller (which would mean we have a big misunderstanding of the equation of state of neutron matter), or that it's a new form of matter. If the last, quark matter seems an obvious candidate.

This is all very new, and may turn out to be incorrect. There aren't any theories yet about precisely how a quark star would form. However, it's certainly safe to say that there will be many very soon. Stay tuned!

Hope that helps.

-Kevin Boyce and Martin Still
for "Ask an Astrophysicist"

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