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Do Neutrons Become Cube-Shaped Inside Super-Dense Stars?

“Deep inside the super-dense hearts of exploding stars, gravity may squash neutron particles from spheres into cubes.

The idea could mean that neutron stars, as researchers call the stellar corpses, are denser than anyone expected. It could also question what stops them from collapsing into black holes and out of existence….

Late last year, astronomers discovered the biggest-ever neutron star, called J1614-2230, that weighed in at 1.97 times the sun’s mass. Prior to its discovery, the most massive neutron weighed 1.67 solar masses.

The find left more than a few astrophysicists scratching their heads. Its existence ruled out some models of neutron stars that relied on exotic forms of matter to explain why they didn’t collapse farther, and instead supported models of neutron stars as containing only neutrons and protons…

Gravity shapes aggregate particles of matter into the simplest, most efficiently-packed object possible, normally a sphere like the Earth. The particles themselves, though, remain individually unaffected; gravity is too weak to overcome the strong interactions that hold neutrons and other particles together. But if gravity becomes intense enough, it might overpower the interactions.

So deep within a neutron star, a neutron’s most efficient shape may be a cube. “They’ll be flattened on all sides, like dice,” Llanes-Estrada said.”

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