Astronomers have discovered the most massive example of a neutron star, classified as a “black widow,” which grew privately by swallowing most of the companion star’s mass.
The star, which rotates 707 times per second, has a mass of about 2.35 times the mass of our sun, the researchers said. Perhaps the largest possible mass of this type of object is before it collapses and forms a black hole.
A neutron star is the collapsed compact core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova at the end of its life cycle.
What the researchers described is a highly magnetized type of star called a pulsar, which shoots beams of electromagnetic radiation from its poles. As they rotate, these beams appear to pulsate from an Earth observer’s perspective – similar to the rotating light of a lighthouse.
Only one neutron star orbits faster than this as far as is known.
“The heavier a star is, the denser the material in its core,” said Roger Romani, director of the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics at Stanford University and co-author of the research published this week in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“So, as the heaviest known neutron star, this object features the densest matter in the observable universe. If it were heavier, it would collapse and turn into a black hole, and whatever was inside it would be forever cut off from observation.” Romanian.
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