Astronomers have found a mystical neutron star that is far lighter than earlier thought possible, undermining our understanding of the physics and evolution of stars. And fascinatingly, it can be composed largely of quarks.
As detailed in a new paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy this week, the neutron star possesses a radius of just 6.2 miles and only the mass of 77% of the Sun.
Which makes it much lighter than some other previously studied neutron stars, which typically have a mass of 1.4 times the mass of sunlight in the very same radius.
The team of astronomers, led by Victor Doroshenko of Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in Germany, thus suggest it could be an entirely new type of star.
“Our mass estimate can make the main compact object in HESS J1731 347 the least heavy neutron star known to date, and likely a far more exotic object – that’s, a’ strange star’ candidate,” the paper reads.
Neutron stars, which are some of the densest objects in the known universe, are typically formed after supergiant stars go supernova.
The star’s core can subsequently implode, compressing all of that mass into an extremely dense object. Based on scientists’ calculations, one teaspoon of neutron star would have a mass of 2.2 trillion pounds.
But this newly discovered object defies our known definitions and boundaries.
Doroshenko and his team discovered that the star is really a lot closer to us than we thought using data obtained by the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft, which enabled them to recalculate the mystic star’s mass.
Nevertheless, the resulting mass and radius just do not fit into our present definition of neutron star, making this finding a possible “strange star” candidate.
Odd stars are hypothetical celestial objects thought to be composed mostly of “strange quark” material, enabling them to have lower temperatures as well as masses of other neutron stars.
Astronomers additionally have indicated that strange stars might be behind quick radio bursts, powerful and mysterious bursts of radio pulses that have yet to be explained.
In short, it’s an abnormal object that might fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe.
Such a gentle neutron star appears to be a very fascinating object from an astrophysical perspective, no matter the presumed internal structure, “Doroshenko as well as his team said in a statement.