The Hardest Known Substance In the Universe Is Something Called "Nuclear Pasta"

Mindy Sparks
September 21, 2018

Still, it's hard to argue it's not appropriate: scientists studying neutron stars have theorized that the masses of neutrons within these odd objects group together to form structures that look suspiciously like Italian pasta, and have even gone so far as to classify them with names like "gnocchi" and "lasagna".

This high density causes the material that makes up a neutron star, known as nuclear pasta, to have a unique structure. The crust of neutron stars is therefore very important for science to understand.

Neutron stars consist of very dense matter. After that there is a new star in the shape of a sphere with a diameter of about 20 kilometers, whose mass is twice that of the Sun.

An worldwide team of researchers from McGill University, California Institute of Technology and Indiana University has calculated the strength of nuclear pasta - extremely dense material deep inside the crust of neutron stars.

These sort of densities can trigger all sorts of quirky physics, among them the so-called nuclear pasta.

Nuclear pasta, the hardest known substance in the universe.

"We simulate idealized samples of nuclear pasta and describe their breaking mechanism".

Neutron stars are born as extremely hot objects when the cores of highly evolved, massive stars become gravitationally unstable and collapse. The simulations showed that the enormous densities and unusual shapes have made nuclear material inside neutron stars so dense that it is likely the strongest material in the entire universe. Understanding how this nuclear pasta works is a key concern for our lasagna-loving scientists.

"Our results are valuable for astronomers who study neutron stars", Dr. Caplan said. "The strength of the neutron star crust, especially the bottom of the crust, is relevant to a large number of astrophysics problems, but isn't well understood". In fact, lone neutron stars may produce their own weak gravitational waves by creating rigid "mountains" in the crust, according to research that was accepted for publication in August 2018 in the journal Physical Review Letters. So at the surface, there is gnocchi, round bubble-like neutrons. With this result, many problems need to be revisited. These layers are still not all that makes a neutron star. "And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?" "We also deform nuclear pasta that is arranged into many domains, similar to what is known for the ions in neutron star crusts".

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