Mountains on neutron stars are only a fraction of a millimeter tall

These results show how neutron stars truly are remarkably spherical objects.


Rapidly spinning neutron stars are the primary targets for continuous exploration. In addition to being dense objects, neutron stars also have an enormous gravitational pull around a billion times stronger than the Earth.

Recently, a team of scientists used models of neutron stars to map tiny mountains on neutron stars. And the outcomes demonstrated that these neutron star mountains are only fractions of millimeters high. The reason behind such height is the huge gravity on the ultra-dense objects.

The enormous gravitational pull of neutron stars squashes every feature on the surface to minuscule dimensions and means that the stellar remnant is an almost perfect sphere. The deformations from the perfect sphere are what scientists called mountains.

In this study, scientists used computational modeling to build real neutron stars. By modeling them at several ranges, it was demonstrated how these mountains are created.

Along with that, scientists also determined the role of ultra-dense nuclear matter in supporting the mountains. It was found that the largest mountain is about a fraction of a millimeter tall, one hundred times smaller than previous estimates.

Ph.D. student Fabian Gittins at the University of Southampton said“For the past two decades, there has been much interest in understanding how large these mountains can be before the crust of the neutron star breaks, and the mountain can no longer be supported.”

“These results show how neutron stars truly are remarkably spherical objects. Additionally, they suggest that observing gravitational waves from rotating neutron stars maybe even more challenging than previously thought.”

The research is presented today at the National Astronomy Meeting 2021.


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