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Neutron Stars

The image above is of the Crab Nebula pulsar.
Neutron stars form when the core of a dying star is greater than 1.4 times the mass of the Sun. The stars from which they are born are thought to be between 15 to 30 times the mass of our Sun.
A year after Sir James Chadwick discovered the "neutral particle", or, "neutron" as it was named from then after, in 1932, the American scientists Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky proposed the existance of "neutron stars", each a tiny sphere of densely packed neutrons.
The surface of a neutron star is rotating anywhere between twice a minute and six hundred times a second. The gravity of a neutron star is up to a few trillion times stronger than the Earth's and you would need to be travelling at half the speed of light to escape its pull.
Anyone falling onto a neutron star would immediately be crushed, releasing five times more energy than the bomb that destroyed Nahasaki. And that's if the magnetic field doesn't get you first.
Neutron stars possess magnetic fields so powerful that if one was placed halfway between the Earth and the Moon, it would wipe out every credit card, videotape and floppy disk in the world. Paperclips, pins, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, staples and all other things small and magnetic would launch themselves from the Earth, attracted by the neutron star's magnetic field.
Some neutron star possess magnetic fields between a hundred and a thousand times stronger than standard neutron stars. These objects are the "magnetars". They have slow rotational periods because their colossal fields drag the star nearly to a halt. Magnetars have the most powerful magnetic fields known anywhere in nature.
If this type of star was placed halfway between the Earth and the Moon, it's magnetic field would be lethal. Because its magnetism is so strong it can affect every kind of material, not just magnetic ones. It would rip apart all the atoms in your body.
As a neutron star rotates, its energy transforms into radiation and escapes into space. The neutron star's powerful magnetic field funnels the radiation into a cone. If by chance this cone is pointing in the direction of the Earth, it can be detected as a series of pulses. The timing of the pulses vary from several seconds to 1.5 thousandths of a second. This is known as a "pulsar".
The first pulsars were proposed by Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky, some people thought the pulses were coming from alien machinery but Jocelyn Bell identified them to be pulsars.
See also, "White Dwarfs", and, "Supernovae" topic pages.


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