Researchers at West Virginia University have helped identify the most massive neutron star to date, and it is considered to be a breakthrough uncovered through the Green Bank Telescope in Pocahontas County.
According to a document released in Nature Astronomy on Monday, a team of astronomers has now effectively recognized the massive neutron star on record. The star, called J0740 + 6620, is 2.14 times as large as the Sun, measuring approximately 15 miles in diameter.
The neutron star, which is called as J0740 + 6620, is a fast-spinning pulsar that carries 2.17 times the Sun’s mass (which is 333,000 times the Earth’s mass) across a sphere of just 20-30 kilometers or about 15 miles. This measurement approaches the boundaries that a single object can become large and compact without crushing itself into a black hole.
The discovery is important because the maximum possible mass for neutron stars has yet to be identified by scientists. J0740 + 6620 is probably close to this threshold, which means it can shed light on the mysterious inner dynamics of neutron stars and give insight into the deaths and afterlife of massive stars.
The new mass detection “is interesting because it informs our understanding of how supernovae form neutron stars (and how massive the progenitor stars must be),” stated lead author Thankful Cromartie, a graduate student in astronomy at the University of Virginia.
“To consider for neutron stars that are born extremely massive, we need to refine our models of stellar evolution and supernovae explosions,” she mentioned.
J0740+6620 is a pulsar, a particular type of neutron star that emits luminous beams of radiation out of its magnetic poles. Since these poles happen to be oriented toward Earth, scientists can discern it regularly blinking like a cosmic lighthouse, even though it is located 4,600 light-years away.
Because of their interactions with their companion white dwarf, the researchers were able to calculate the mass of the pulsar. As the two objects orbit each other, their immense gravity distorts the surrounding space that distorts the bright pulses emitted by J0740 + 6620.
Authors on the paper include Duncan Lorimer, an astronomy professor and Eberly College of Arts and Sciences associate dean for research; Eberly Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy Maura McLaughlin; Nate Garver-Daniels, a system administrator in the Department of Physics and Astronomy; and postdocs and former students named Harsha Blumer, Paul Brook, Pete Gentile, Megan Jones and Michael Lam.
The discovery is one of many surprising results, McLaughlin said. She added that they have emerged during conventional observations taken as part of a search for gravitational waves.
The team used this exact time delay to estimate the mass of the white dwarf, which in turn enabled them to calculate the mass of the pulsar. The research unveiled that J0740+6620 is the most significant neutron star known to scientists.
The results “serve as a strong validation of the existence of high-mass neutron stars,” the team inferred in the paper. “Even small increases in the measured mass of the most massive neutron stars force a reconsideration of the underlying physics at play in their centers.