White Dwarfs & Neutron Stars – The Structure of Neutron Stars

By allrite on 27/10/2020


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What happens if the mass of the core is greater than this limit? The core remnant continues to contract and the momentum, and hence the kinetic energies, of the electrons increase into the relativistic realm. Now,

energies of subatomic particles

so if the electrons have a kinetic energy of greater than 0.8 MeV, the inverse beta reaction,

inverse beta reaction

where n is a neutrino, can proceed.

Beta decay does not occur, because the lowest energy states are already filled; there is nowhere for the beta electrons to go! As well, the escaping neutrino carries energy away from the star, reducing the degeneracy pressure, and increasing the rate of compression. This in turn increases the rate of the inverse beta decay.

Neutrons are also fermions, so they obey the Pauli exclusion principle. The neutrons are attracted to each other by the strong force, but those at higher energies have enough kinetic energy to break free (“evaporate”) from the nucleus. The reverse (“condensation”) also occurs. As the star collapses further, the fermi energies of the neutrons increase until the strong force is incapable of holding the nuclei together. The star is then composed almost entirely of a degenerate neutron gas. In actual fact, the internal structure of a neutron star may well be more complicated than this.

It is doubtful that a neutron star contains an interior of uniform consistency, nor may it be entirely composed of neutrons. The exact composition will depend on the mass of the star, and hence the density of the matter. A neutron star may typically be only 10 kilometres in diameter, so the densities considered are going to be extremely high. The following is a possible model for the internal nature of a neutron star.