The “overweight” neutron star that was recently observed by scientists defies astronomical theories, a study published in the Astrophysical Journal indicates.”
Neutron stars, it has been observed “are about 12 miles wide, and so dense that a teaspoon of material would have a mass of 1bn tonnes. They have a smooth crust of pure neutrons, 10bn times stronger than steel.”
The riveting observation was made using NASA’s orbiting Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, “which detected the initial gamma-ray burst coming from a galaxy about 10.6bn light years away.”
The hypermassive star, the Guardian’s Hannah Devlin reports, was produced by the merger of two smaller neutron stars. “Normally such collisions result in neutron stars so massive that they collapse into a black hole almost instantaneously under their own gravity…but the latest observations revealed the monster star hovering in view for more than a day before it faded out of sight,” she writes.
Dr Nuria Jordana-Mitjans, an astronomer at the University of Bath, says the neutron is “Such a massive neutron star with a long life expectancy is not normally thought to be possible…it is a mystery why this one was so long-lived.”
Neutron stars, Devlin notes, “are the smallest, densest stars in existence, occupying a sweet spot between conventional stars and black holes.” According to Prof Carole Mundell, an astronomer at the University of Bath and co-author of the study, neutron stars are “such weird exotic objects,”
“We can’t gather this material and bring it back to our lab so the only way we can study it is when they do something in the sky that we can observe,” she says. Mundell adds that something appears to have prevented the neutron star. “This is the first direct glimpse that we may have of a hypermassive spinning neutron star in nature,” she opines.