Scientists have long thought that nuclear reactions within the crust of a neutron star contributed to the heating of the star’s surface. However, new research recently published in Nature
by a team at Michigan State University has researchers rethinking that...
Hendrik Schatz and colleagues report results from theoretical calculations that identify previously unknown layers where nuclear reactions within the crust cause rapid neutrino cooling. Neutrinos are elementary particles created through radioactive decay that pass quickly through matter.
“These cooling layers are pretty shallow beneath the surface,” said Schatz. “If heat from deeper within the star comes up, it hits this layer and never makes it to the surface. Schatz said this discovery produces more questions than answers. ”This completely changes the way we think about the question of the star’s hot surface, it’s a big puzzle now.”
On the sub-atomic level, the team found that the process is greatly affected by the shape of the nuclei. “Many nuclei are round, and that suppresses the neutrino cooling,” said Sanjib Gupta, co-author and faculty member at IIT Ropar in India. “In this case, the nuclei are predicted by theorists to be ‘deformed’, more [American] football-shaped.
This study also points to the discovery potential of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. It is exactly these types of nuclei that researchers could examine in the new facility.
You can read the full study in Nature.