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Neutron Stars

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Posted by Nicholas on November 4, 2002 06:41:00 UTC

Since this forum seems like it needs a little more diversity in the science arena, I thought I'd present a few interesting facts about neutron stars to spur some intelligent discussion:

1) Neutron stars are about as massive as one and a half suns but are only about the size of a small city.

2) A chunk of neutron star matter the size of your finger tip would have a mass of about 500 billion kilograms (1 trillion pounds).

3) Gas pressure cannot support neutron stars. Instead, they are held up by quantum mechanical degeneracy pressure (specifically, the Pauli exclusion principle).

4) The pulsar phenomenon is thought to be caused by spinning neutron stars with strong magnetic fields. The pulse period of an isolated pulsar is constant to within a factor of 10^-15.

5) Neutron stars are the cores of old massive stars that exploded in a supernova.

6) Pulsars can exist in binaries. One such binary, PSR1913+16, was observed to be decaying in its orbit by exactly the amount predicted by general relativity. The reason for the decay was gravitational radiation (basically a ripple in spacetime analogous to a light wave). This won Russel Hulse and Joseph Taylor the Nobel Prize in 1993.

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