Scientists uncover 'strongest material in universe', and name it nuclear pasta

Christopher Davidson
September 21, 2018

They successfully ran the largest computer simulations ever conducted of neutron star crusts, becoming the first to describe how these break. This weird kind of noodle is kneaded below the crust of neutron stars and, in a new study, a powerful computer simulation has taken a stab at manipulating this stellar noodle to find that it's the strongest material in the cosmos.

The researchers plan to continue to study neutron stars and their super-strong crusts. They are typically about 20 kilometers in diameter and have incredibly high temperatures.

An global team comprised of researchers from McGill University, Indiana University and the California Institute of Technology has now crunched the numbers, simulating how the nuclear particles interact at different layers of the neutron star.

The strongest material in the known universe is a odd form of pasta - it's not campanelle, gnocchi, or penne, but rather an esoteric-like concoction called nuclear pasta, which is formed by the ungodly pressure found inside a neutron star. This nuclear pasta has matter densities of 10g/cm. "On a neutron star, those "starquakes" or breaking events can release light while "neutron star mountains" can make gravitational waves, which are both things astronomers would like to observe". A nuclear pasta exists in the inner crusts of a neutron star, ultradense matter at the core. - But if, suddenly, teaspoon of nuclear pasta magically teleported here, without the gravity of a neutron star immediately would explode like a nuclear bomb. "This work only studied lasagna, but pasta comes in a lot of shapes. Their outer layer is the part we actually observe, so we need to understand that in order to interpret astronomical observations of these stars", added Caplan.

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The findings, accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters, could help astrophysicists better understand gravitational waves like those detected past year when two neutron stars collided.

The results even suggest that lone neutron stars might generate small gravitational waves. So at the surface, there is gnocchi, round bubble-like neutrons. To understand more about this we need to clear a few concepts. They believe that neutron stars' crust could provide most detailed information astronomers may ever know about these unusual stars.

Just like your nonna's pasta, nuclear pasta makes great leftovers (it may be pretty much the only matter that can survive in a star after a supernova).

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