Gravity Defied : From Potato Asteroids to Magnetised Neutron Stars 4. Neutron Stars (Dead Stars of the Second Kind)
Neutron stars, radio pulsars, X-ray binaries, magnetic fields.
A star burns its nuclear fuel and balances gravitation by thepressure of the heated gas, during its active lifetime. Afterthe exhaustion of the nuclear fuel, a low mass star findspeace as a ‘white dwarf’, where the pressure support againstgravitation is provided by Fermi-degenerate electrons. However,for massive stars, the gravitational squeeze becomes sosevere that in the final phase of evolution, the average densityapproximately equals the nuclear density. At such densities,most of the protons combine with electrons to convertthemselves into neutrons. A `neutron star', composed of suchneutron-rich material, is host to some fascinating physics arisingout of its amazingly compact state of matter (where a solarmass is packed inside a sphere of radius ∼ 10Km).