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Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) have discovered the most massive neutron star yet found, a discovery with strong and wide-ranging impacts across several fields of physics and astrophysics.
“This neutron star is twice as massive as our Sun. This is surprising, and that much mass means that several theoretical models for the internal composition of neutron stars now are ruled out,” said Paul Demorest, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). “This mass measurement also has implications for our understanding of all matter at extremely high densities and many details of nuclear physics.”
Neutron stars are the superdense “corpses” of massive stars that have exploded as supernovae. With all their mass packed into a sphere the size of a small city, their protons and electrons are crushed together into neutrons. A neutron star can be several times more dense than an atomic nucleus, and a thimbleful of neutron-star material would weigh more than 500 million tons.
This tremendous density makes neutron stars an ideal natural “laboratory” for studying the most dense and exotic states of matter known to physics.
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