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Journey to the Center of a Neutron StarA neutron star is not a place most would want to visit. This dense remnant of a collapsed star has a magnetic field billions of times stronger than Earth's, enough to shuffle your body's molecules long before you even land. The featureless surface is no fun either. Crushing gravity ensures that the star is a near perfect sphere, compressing all matter so that a sand-grain-sized scoop of neutron star material would weigh as much as a battleship on Earth. At least black holes offer the promise of funky singularity, time warps, and the Odyssean temptation to venture beyond a point of no return. What s a journey to a neutron star good for, one might ask? Well, for starters, it offers the possibility of confirming a theorized state of matter called quark-gluon plasma, which likely existed for a moment after the Big Bang and now might only exist in the superdense interiors of neutron stars. Beneath the neutron star crust, a kilometer-thick plate of crystalline matter, lies the great unknown. The popular theory is that the neutron star interior is made up of a neutron superfluid - a fluid without friction. With the help of two NASA satellites - the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory - scientists are journeying to the center of a neutron star. Matter might be so compressed there that it breaks down into quarks, the building blocks of protons and neutrons, and gluons, the carrier of the strong nuclear force. To dig inside a neutron star, no simple drill bit will do. Scientists gain insight into the interior through events called glitches, a sudden change in the neutron star s precise spin rate. 'Glitches are one of the few ways we have to study the neutron star interior,' says Frank Marshall of NASA s Goddard Space Flight Center, who has used the Rossi Explorer to follow the escapades of the glitchiest of all neutron stars, dubbed the Big Glitcher and known scientifically as PSR J0537-6910.
Document ID
Document Type
Wanjek, Christopher (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2003
Publication Information
Publication: Space Science Reference Guide, 2nd Edition
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle20040010556Analytic PrimarySpace Science Reference Guide, 2nd Edition
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