Neutron Star as “Giant Nucleus”

Neutron Star as “Giant Nucleus”

A neutron star is the collapsed core of a large star (usually of a red giant). Neutron stars are the smallest and densest stars known to exist and they are rotating extremely rapidly. A neutron star is basically a giant atomic nucleus about 11 km in diameter made especially of neutrons. It is believed that under the immense pressures of a collapsing massive stars going supernova it is possible for the electrons and protons  to combine to form neutrons via electron capture, releasing a huge amount of neutrinos. Since they have some similar properties as atomic nuclei, neutron stars are sometimes described as giant nuclei. But be careful, neutron stars and atomic nuclei are held together by different forces.  A nucleus is held together by the strong force, while a neutron star is held together by gravitational force.

On the other hand, neutron stars are partially supported against further collapse by neutron degeneracy (via degeneracy pressure), a phenomenon described by the Pauli exclusion principle. In general, in a highly dense state of matter, where gravitational pressure is extreme, quantum mechanical effects are significant. Degenerate matter is usually modelled as an ideal Fermi gas, in which the Pauli exclusion principle prevents identical fermions from occupying the same quantum state. Similarly, white dwarfs are supported against collapse by electron degeneracy pressure, which is analogous to neutron degeneracy.

References:
Nuclear and Reactor Physics:
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Advanced Reactor Physics:

  1. K. O. Ott, W. A. Bezella, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Statics, American Nuclear Society, Revised edition (1989), 1989, ISBN: 0-894-48033-2.
  2. K. O. Ott, R. J. Neuhold, Introductory Nuclear Reactor Dynamics, American Nuclear Society, 1985, ISBN: 0-894-48029-4.
  3. D. L. Hetrick, Dynamics of Nuclear Reactors, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48453-2. 
  4. E. E. Lewis, W. F. Miller, Computational Methods of Neutron Transport, American Nuclear Society, 1993, ISBN: 0-894-48452-4.

See above:

Atomic Nucleus