Neutron Stars 1 Equation of State and Structure

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Neutrons and electrons obey a different equation of state from that of a simple gas. It is derived from Fermi-Dirac statistics, which takes into account what is known as quantum degeneracy pressure. If you are familiar with the Pauli exclusion principle, which states that no two electrons can occupy the same state, then you are familiar with one example of degeneracy pressure. The basic idea of degeneracy pressure is that there is a minimum volume into which you can squeeze a neutron. Beyond that limit the degeneracy pressure gets too large for you to overcome.


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You can overcome the degeneracy pressure if you have enough mass. Based on the neutron equation of state that limit is a bit more than 3 solar masses.


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Anything bigger than that, and the neutron star is so massive it collapses into a black hole. A similar thing occurs with white dwarfs. In a white dwarf star the weight of its mass is balanced by the degeneracy pressure of the electrons. As long as the white dwarf is less than 1. But if the white dwarf has more mass, then it will collapse into a neutron star.

Equations of State - One Universe at a Time

There is, however, one important difference. They are made up of a trio of quarks. So when if the mass of a neutron star is close to the neutron limit, then it might not collapse into a black hole. It might collapse into a quark star. In a quark star, instead of being clumped into neutrons the quarks would move freely, making the star a mass of quarks, as you can see in the figure above. Of course this means that a quark star needs an entirely different equation of state. This is further complicated by the fact that the interior of quark stars would have so much heat and energy that some of the neutron quarks up and down quarks could transform into strange quarks.

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Not strange in that they are weird, but strange because they are named strange quarks. The one catch is that the largest quark stars could be as large as the smallest neutron stars, so it might be difficult to distinguish them. There have been a few observations of stars that might be quark stars, but so far there are no confirmed quark stars. Then again it might be the case that quark stars are unstable.


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  • Constraints on the equation of state for neutron stars implied by PSR1957 + 20.

This would mean that large neutron stars might enter a short quark star period before collapsing into a black hole, but there would never be a long-lived quark star. The basic idea is that if nucleons are squeezed hard enough the quarks can begin to move freely. In forming a neutron star, the electrons fuse with the protons to create neutrons, so that is why it is just a neutron star.

I heard about strange matter hitting the earth and going straight through without slowing down back in Do you have any thoughts on this?

The idea of isolated strange matter strangelets is still pretty speculative. As I recall, the strange matter collision claim was later retracted by the authors. Thus far there is no clear evidence for natural strangelets. I wonder why experts would report something so highly speculative as solid? With masses comparable to that of the Sun and radii of about ten kilometres, neutron stars are the densest stars in the Universe. This book describes all layers of neutron stars, from the surface to the core, with the emphasis on their structure and equation of state.

Theories of dense matter are reviewed, and used to construct neutron star models. Hypothetical strange quark stars and possible exotic phases in neutron star cores are also discussed. Also covered are the effects of strong magnetic fields in neutron star envelopes.

Constraining the equation of state of neutron stars from binary mergers.

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Atoms As Big As Mountains — Neutron Stars Explained

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