HomeAstronomy & SpaceAstronomyScientists develop new method hunting for dead stars

Scientists develop new method hunting for dead stars

Neutron stars are tiny in size but have incomprehensibly dense. They are stellar corpses. But they have some life in them to show some of the most exciting phenomena to be found in space.

Scientists will be studying and looking for neutron stars for the next five years. EU is also helping in the exploration with a EUR 2 million ERC Consolidator Grant.


Scientists are developing a new method for measuring neutron star masses.

Scientists have given the name LOVE-NEST, to the search operation. The abbreviation of the term stands for looking for Super-Massive Neutron Stars.

Stars live on after death Several possibilities are there when stars die. Stars die when they have used up their fuel. Some the stars might explode.

Hunting for dead stars
Neutron stars are tiny in size, but almost incomprehensibly dense. Here a typical neutron star compared to London. Credit: Kolbjørn Skarpnes, NTNU

What the stars become after their death depends on how big they were at birth.

  • Low-mass stars turn into white dwarfs. Some of these stars continue to shine at low intensity for billions of years. This will probably happen to our Sun one day.
  • Massive stars turn into black holes. In this region gravity is so strong that even light can’t escape.
  • The not-so-massive stars turn into neutron stars. The mass of these stars is equivalent to about 10 to 25 times the mass of our own sun. These stars are very special.

Small but very dense

Neutron stars are small but dense. One cubic meter of a neutron star can weigh one quintillion kilograms. It’s the number 1 followed by 18 zeros.

The gravitational field of a tiny neutron star can be 100 billion times stronger than what we experience on the Earth’s surface.

Moon has a diameter of about 3,500 kilometers and the Earth 12,700 kilometers.

Neutron stars would be impossible to find if we use our eyes to look for them.

What stars become after death depends on how big they were at birth. Credit: Shutterstock, NTB

Some neutron stars are visible

One reason we know of some of neutron stars because some neutron stars turn into pulsars.

These pulsars spin around several times a second and create electromagnetic radiation. By measuring this radiation, we can find out where the star is.

The vast majority of neutron stars are pulsars. Magnetars are another kind of neutron star.

Measuring the mass of dead stars

LOVE-NEST is aiming to determine the masses of neutron stars.

Weighing the neutron star in isolation is difficult. But the effect of the neutron star on another star is easier to measure.

The new method uses temperature differences to calculate the mass of a star.

Extreme heat affects the companion star

A neutron star stays around 6,000 degrees Kelvin on the surface and a little over 14 million degrees K. inside.

Neutron stars can have a temperature up to 100 million degrees K.

Can read speed and mass Professor Linares from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Spain has used the famous astronomical observatories in the Canary Islands.

The variation in temperature changes the chemical spectrum of a companion star. This spectrum can be measured by physicists, even if the two stars are 10 000 light-years away.


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