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Gluttonous cosmic 'black widow' is heaviest-known neutron star

Published: 4th Aug, 2022


For the first time, astronomers have discovered the heaviest known neutron star, an object that forms when the core of a massive star undergoes gravitational collapse at the end of its life. 

  • The neutron star classified as a “black widow” has a mass about 2.35 times greater than that of our sun.


About “Black Widow”:

  • The neutron star is wildly spinning at 707 times per second.
  • It has been observed the most massive known example of an object called a neutron star.
  • This neutron star inhabits what is called a binary system, in an orbit with another star.
  • The neutron star is a kind dubbed a "black widow," named in honor of female black widow spiders that eat their male partners after mating.
  • It apparently was born with the usual mass of a neutron star, about 1.4 times that of our sun, but its gravitational pull poached material from its companion star, enabling it to grow to a mass seemingly at the uppermost limit before physics would dictate a collapse into a black hole, the densest of all known objects.
  • It has swallowed nearly a full sun's worth of mass without yet becoming a black hole. So it should be just on the edge of black hole collapse.

About Stars

  • A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma held together by its own gravity.
  • A star's life begins with the gravitational collapse of a gaseous nebula of material composed primarily of hydrogen, along with helium and trace amounts of heavier elements.
  • The total mass of a star is the main factor that determines its evolution and eventual fate.
  • For most of its active life, a star shines due to the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in its core, releasing energy that traverses the star's interior and then radiates into outer space.
  • At the end of a star's lifetime, its core becomes a stellar remnant: a white dwarf, a neutron star, or, if it is sufficiently massive, a black hole.
  • Stars can form orbital systems with other astronomical objects, as in the case of planetary systems and star systems with two or more stars.

Neutron Stars

  • Neutron stars are formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses.
  • The very central region of the star, the core, collapses, crushing together every proton and electron into a neutron.
  • If the core of the collapsing star is between about 1 and 3 solar masses, these newly-created neutrons can stop the collapse, leaving behind a neutron star.
  • Stars with higher masses will continue to collapse into stellar-mass black holes.
  • Many neutron stars are likely undetectable because they simply do not emit enough radiation.

Black Hole

  • A black hole is a region of space-time, where gravity is extremely strong that no object can escape from it.
  • Types: There are two types of black holes which become three with the discovery:
    • Stellar-mass black holes: These are the black holes with a mass of fewer than 100 times that of the Sun.
    • Supermassive black holes (SMBH): These are the ones with a mass greater than 100,000 times that of the Sun.
    • Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs): These are a class of black holes with a mass approximately 100 to 100,000 times that of the Sun.
  • Both stellar black holes and SMBHs are commonly found.

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