» Neutron stars – a teaspoon of mountain

Neutron stars – a teaspoon of mountain

puppis_a_small.gifI have always been amazed at the concept of a neutron star, simply from my repeated attempts to imagine something that can exist that is that dense.

Neutron stars are formed after the supernova of a star that is about 4 to 8 times bigger than our sun. After the explosion of the supernova is winding down, most of the leftover mass of the star pulls in on itself under gravity – and it crunches in so hard that the individual protons and electrons that make that mass get squashed together and turn into neutrons, thus neutron star.

Now here’s the incredible part. All the mass of that neutron star is so squashed, that it only takes up a volume that is about 10 miles wide! That means that all that mass (about 1.4 times more than our sun) is squashed into an area that is smaller than London, England. That means that one teaspoon full of that neutron star material would weigh about 100 million tons – which is as much as a mountain!

Stars which are bigger than 8 times the size of our sun tend to turn into another beast (supposedly), a black hole. This is because the mass involved is so large that it pulls in light around it as well – and so the object can’t be viewed!

For more on Neutron stars, see the “Ask an Astrophysicist” site provided by NASA Goddard.