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'Superfluid' found in neutron star's core


This image presents a composite of X-rays from Chandra (red, green, and blue) and optical data from Hubble (gold) of Cassiopeia A, the remains of a massive star that exploded in a supernova. Photo: NASA

WASHINGTON (BNS): NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has found evidence of bizarre state of matter - known as superfuild - at the core of a neutron star.

Two team of researchers studied the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, or Cas, by using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and found a rapid decline in the temperature of the ultra-dense neutron star that remained after the supernova, showing that it had cooled by about four percent over a 10-year period, researchers said.

"The rapid cooling in Cas A's neutron star, seen with Chandra, is the first direct evidence that the cores of these neutron stars are, in fact, made of superfluid and superconducting material," Peter Shternin of the Ioffe Institute in St Petersburg, Russia, leader of a team with a paper accepted in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, said.

According to NASA, superfluids created in laboratories on Earth exhibit remarkable properties, such as the ability to climb upward and escape airtight containers. The finding has important implications for understanding nuclear interactions in matter at the highest known densities.

Neutron stars contain the densest known matter that is directly observable.

Superfluids containing charged particles are also superconductors, they can act as perfect electrical conductors and never lose energy. The new results strongly suggest that the remaining protons in the star's core are in a superfluid state and because they carry a charge, also form a superconductor.

This new research has allowed the teams to place the first observational constraints on a range of properties of superfluid material in neutron stars. The critical temperature was constrained to between one half a billion to just under a billion degrees Celsius.

A wide region of the neutron star is expected to be forming a neutron superfluid as observed now and to fully explain the rapid cooling, the protons in the neutron star must have formed a superfluid even earlier after the explosion, it said.

Cas A will allow researchers to test models of how the strong nuclear force, which binds subatomic particles, behaves in ultradense matter.

Small sudden changes in the spin rate of rotating neutron stars, called glitches, have previously given evidence for superfluid neutrons in the crust of a neutron star, where densities are much lower than seen in the core of the star. This latest news from Cas A unveils new information about the ultra-dense inner region of the neutron star.

Using a model that has been constrained by the Chandra observations, the future behavior of the neutron star has been predicted. The rapid cooling is expected to continue for a few decades and then it should slow down.

Tags:

NASA  neutron  star  

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