December 2, 2021

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Neutron star ‘mountains’ may be blocking our view of mysterious gravitational waves

4 min read

A 3D visualization of a neutron star. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Neutron stars are covered with “mountains” only fractions of a millimeter tall, new research shows, meaning these bumps are hundreds of times smaller than previous estimates had suggested.

Neutron stars are compact stellar objects, similar in size to a large city with a diameter of around 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), that weigh at least 1.4 solar masses (1.4 times the weight of the sun). They are born from the explosive deaths of stars that weigh between 10 and 25 solar masses. As a result, they are some of the densest objects in the universe and have an incredibly strong gravitational field, around 2 billion times stronger than Earth‘s. This extreme gravity squashes neutron stars into near-perfect spheres that are surrounded by a smooth and solid crust. However, deformations in the crust create mountains on the surfaces of these stars, previous research found.

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