Researchers have found a new way to detect some of the most dangerous encounters in the universe before they occur.
Neutron stars, the extremely dense cores of giant dead stars orbiting or plunging into a black hole, can raise huge ocean waves of powerful particles around the neutron stars. The researchers found that these wavelengths are reflected in the regular light rays of the radiation, which can serve as a precautionary measure before the subsequent encounter.
Neutron stars are undoubtedly the worst objects in the universe. Yes, black holes may be unusual, but they are straightforward – there are many gravitational forces. In contrast, neutron stars are the nuclei of a large atom, which comes with many interesting, complex black holes that they do not share.
A typical neutron star is only a few miles across but can be several times heavier than the sun. They are made entirely of neutrons (hence the name) but consist of many loose electrons, protons, and ions of heavy nuclei. They are born of supernovas – the giant stargazing star – and some can catch the strongest magnets in the universe.
The interior of the neutron stars is very mysterious, as the pressures and congestion are so extreme that they overwhelm our current knowledge of physics. Some models suggest that the cores are a homogeneous blob of neutrons, while others suggest that the neutrons themselves break down into their quark components. Beyond the inner spine is a mass of solid, smooth neutrons that gradually turn into complex patterns, such as lumps and fibers, known as nuclear pasta.
The outer layer of the neutron star is thought to consist of non-fluid electrons and a neutron that opens the crystal lattice as it approaches the surface. Finally, there is the ocean – a layer of non-liquid electrons, neutrons, and ions anywhere from 10 to 100 meters (33 to 330 feet).
Observing the unusual behavior of neutron stars
The extraordinary nature of the matter in these situations – you do not find more than just water neutrons lying around – makes neutron stars a key candidate for studying extreme physics. This concept has been developed since the discovery of GW 170817, a magnetic field signal obtained alongside the magnetic release of two combined neutron stars. Combined discovery, called multimessenger astronomy, allows physicists to examine the hearts of neutron stars more than ever.
But since the discovery of the first gravitational wave in 2017, we have not seen any other cases of neutron star formation – which is frustrating because neutron stars are among the best natural laboratories to test high-energy physics.
But now, a new way of looking at the external behavior of neutron stars might mean we should not wait too long. The new work, published in May in the preprint database arXiv, focuses on the ocean of neutron stars, which, in addition to free electrons and neutrons, can contain carbon, oxygen, and iron. Although the sea is relatively shallow compared to all the depths of a neutron star, it is a very outer layer (not including a surprisingly small “atmosphere”) and part of a neutron star that responds efficiently to outer space.