Recently detected crash provides hints to size, innards of these stellar cores
Mark Garlick/University of Warwick
On astrophysicists’ charts of star stuff, there’s a substance that still merits the label “here be dragons.” That poorly understood material is found inside neutron stars — the collapsed remnants of once-mighty stars — and is now being mapped out, as scientists better characterize the weird matter.
The detection of two colliding neutron stars, announced in October (SN: 11/11/17, p. 6), has accelerated the pace of discovery. Since the event, which scientists spied with gravitational waves and various wavelengths of light, several studies have placed new limits on the sizes and masses possible for such stellar husks and on how squishy or stiff they are.
“The properties of neutron star matter are not very well known,” says physicist Andreas Bauswein of the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies in Germany. Part of