HENNING DALHOFF / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY HENNING DALHOFF / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Internal structure of a neutron star, illustration. This super-dense astronomical object is the remains of a massive star that has collapsed under its own gravity. The nuclear reactions that prevented its gravitational collapse have ceased. The mass is sufficiently great to overcome the repulsion between protons and electrons that holds open ordinary matter. Only a quantum mechanical effect (neutron degeneracy) prevents total collapse. The star is as dense as an atomic nucleus, having a mass of up to three times that of the Sun despite being only around 10 kilometres across. The photosphere (blue) conceals crusts (light brown) of electrons and atomic nuclei. Free neutrons form a superfluid (pink-red). The solid core (dark red) exceeds nuclear densities. Neutron stars have powerful magnetic fields. Jets of radiation are shown here at the star's magnetic poles.
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