Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Weight and Workings of a Neutron Star:

At first glance, it seems that the Earth is a rather large object. Over 7 billion people are able to make their homes on the surface of this rocky planet, and the Earth is also home to more than 8.7 million species (give or take a few million). Given this impressive scale one could assert that the Earth is is, but only according to human standards. On the other hand, Jupiter, the largest of the planets in our solar system, is large according to planetary standards. Ultimately, it could swallow all of the other planets in our solar systems. If we are just looking at Earth, it could consume out planet 1,300 times over and still have room to spare. But this is nothing when compared with our Sun--it could house over 1 million Earths.

So it seems that there is always something larger than you, something more massive and dense. Today, I'd like to talk about truly massive objects, Neutron stars. These stars are actually know for their density--their extreme weight. These stars are the dense, core remnants of large stars that can no longer support nuclear fusion. You see, stars can take on numerous forms when they exhaust their fuel and explode, and what they become is all based on their mass. Smaller stars, stars that are below the Chandrasekhar limit of 1.4 solar masses, form into white dwarfs. Conversely, when stars reaching megalithic proportions (approximately 4 to 8 solar masses) can no longer support nuclear fusion, they explode violently, leaving behind super dense neutron stars. So just how dense are they?

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