Called a neutron star, the dense, collapsed remnants of a massive star have a mass twice that of our Sun, making it the largest neutron star known to date. The object spins 707 times per second, making it one of the fastest-spinning neutron stars in the Milky Way.
Neutron stars are known as black widows because of their resemblance to arachnids Female spiders consume much smaller male partners after mating, and the star shreds and swallows the entire mass of its companion star.
This stellar feast allowed the black widow to become the heaviest neutron star ever observed.
Astronomers were able to weigh the star known as PSR J0952-0607 Using the sensitive Keck Telescope at the WM Keck Laboratory in Maunakea, Hawaii.
The observatory’s low-resolution imaging spectrometer recorded visible light from the fragmented companion star, which is glowing due to excessive heat.
The companion star is now the size of a giant gas planet, or 20 times the mass of Jupiter. The side of the companion star facing the neutron star is heated to 10,700 degrees Fahrenheit (5,927 degrees Celsius) — hot and bright enough to see through a telescope.
Outside of black holes, neutron star nuclei are the densest matter in the universe, and a 1 cubic inch (16.4 cubic centimeter) neutron star weighs more than 10 billion tons, said study author Roger W. Romani says. Stanford University in California.
Researchers report that this particular neutron star is the densest object in Earth’s sight.
“We know how matter behaves at atomic densities like the nucleus of a uranium atom,” study co-author Alex Filippenko said in a statement. Filippenko holds dual degrees in astronomy and professorship Eminent Prof Physical Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
“A neutron star is like a giant nucleus, but if you have one-and-a-half solar masses, which is about 500,000 Earth-mass nuclei all stuck together, it’s not clear how they work.”
A neutron star like PSR J0952-0607 is called a pulsar because as it spins, the object acts as a cosmic beacon, constantly emitting light in the form of radio waves, X-rays, or gamma rays.
Normal pulsars spin and flash once per second, but this one pulses hundreds of times per second. This is because the neutron star gains more energy as it removes material from the companion star.
“In a case of cosmic ingratitude, the black widow pulsar, having swallowed most of its companion, is now heating the companion to vaporize planetary masses and possibly complete destruction,” Filippenko said.
Astronomers were the first to discover neutron star in 2017, and Filippenko and Romani have studied similar black widow systems for more than a decade. They were trying to understand how massive neutron stars could become. If neutron stars are too heavy, they collapse and become black holes.
The star PSR J0952-0607 is 2.35 times the mass of the Sun, which is now considered the upper limit of neutron stars, the researchers said.
We can continue to look for black widows and similar neutron stars that drift close to the edge of a black hole. But if it can’t be found, then 2.3 solar masses is the true limit, beyond which it tightens the argument that they become black holes. ,” Filippenko said.
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