According to their findings, a press statement reveals, they bear a surprising resemblance to chocolate pralines.
Neutron stars surprisingly resemble pralines
The physicists developed numerous so-called equations of state, and they found that they shed surprising light on the interior of neutron stars. An equation of state reveals the state of matter of an object under a pre-specified set of physical conditions.
The Goethe University team’s equations suggest that “light” neutron stars (smaller than about 1.7 solar masses) have a soft mantle and a stiff core, while “heavy” neutron stars (larger than 1.7 solar masses) have a stiff mantle and a soft core.
“This result is very interesting because it gives us a direct measure of how compressible the center of neutron stars can be,” explained study lead Luciano Rezzolla. “Neutron stars apparently behave a bit like chocolate pralines: light stars resemble those chocolates that have a hazelnut in their center surrounded by soft chocolate, whereas heavy stars can be considered more like those chocolates where a hard layer contains a soft filling.”
Neutron stars are believed to form when a massive star collapses in on itself after a supernova explosion. That is, unless the star is so massive it creates a black hole, instead. They are effectively the stellar remains of a star that has used up all of its fuel.
Uncovering the mysteries of neutron stars
The scientists also made other discoveries by analyzing their equations of state. They found, for example, that regardless of their mass, neutron stars probably have a radius of only 7 miles (12 kilometers), meaning they are the same size as Goethe University’s hometown of Frankfurt in Germany.