NASA Builds Telescope to Learn About Neutron Stars
It will be a few days before the cargo capsule Dragon of SpaceX arrives at the International Space Station (ISS). Bad weather has postponed the planned launch for Thursday until Saturday. Among other supplies for the crew of the ISS, it has an unusual telescope designed to look for unknown objects called neutron stars. These relatively small celestial bodies have surprising characteristics, for example, a teaspoon of their material weighs about 10 million tons.
As for a full size model of the neutron star Composition Explorer, or rather because of the brevity shown in the Goddard Space Center, one can immediately see that this is not an optical telescope.
The most visible part of Nicer is a cube, one meter wide, solid aluminum with holes 56 drilled through its face. The instrument offers its own range of special lenses that distort X-rays and concentrate on sensors placed on the inner wall behind them.
On the outside, it looks a bit like WWII Katyusha kneaded pitcher.
Above, there are some projections that house auxiliary equipment, as well as a plug for the ISS robotic arm will eventually be installed outside the space station.
Next to the hub, the deputy chief investigator NICER mission, astrophysicist Zaven Arzoumanien says we do not know many neutron stars, the most difficult objects in the universe.
“They are only about 16 to 20 kilometers, but it can contain the mass of up to two of our compressed soles in this small volume, so we believe that they are mostly composed of neutrons.”
But how is it possible when we all know it is made of atoms?
It is true, Arzumanyan said, “but the distance between the nuclei of individual atoms is very large and is occupied by electrons that have a very small mass, so it is mostly empty space. Gold and crush the point at which the nuclei are pressed until they touch, when there is more empty space, the electrons are absorbed by the protons, they are canceled, they become neutrons and they are left with a neutron ball.
The only force able to crush atoms at this point is gravity, and gravity is so strong that it needs to collapse once or twice the mass of the Sun and compress, colliding with its own weight and ‘we stay with what we believe Which is a neutron star, “he said.
At this point, the physics of the neutron star darken. Perhaps under these conditions, neutrons and protons can no longer maintain their identity, Arzoumanien suggests. They can dissolve in a soup of even smaller particles – quarks and gluons. What we know, he adds, is that neutron stars spin at a very fast and constant speed and are very powerful X-ray sources