A neutron star is the collapsed core of a giant star which before collapse had a total mass of between 10 and 29 solar masses. Neutron stars are the smallest and densest stars, not counting black holes, hypothetical white holes, quark stars and strange stars. Neutron stars have a radius on the order of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) and a mass of about 1.4 solar masses. They result from the supernova explosion of a massive star, combined with gravitational collapse, that compresses the core past white dwarf star density to that of atomic nuclei.Neutron stars containing 500,000 Earth-masses in 25 km (16 mi) diameter sphereNeutron stars collidingNeutron star collision A neutron star is the collapsed core of a giant star which before collapse had a total mass of between 10 and 29 solar masses. Neutron stars are the smallest and densest stars, not counting black holes, hypothetical white holes, quark stars and strange stars. Neutron stars have a radius on the order of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) and a mass of about 1.4 solar masses. They result from the supernova explosion of a massive star, combined with gravitational collapse, that compresses the core past white dwarf star density to that of atomic nuclei. Once formed, they no longer actively generate heat, and cool over time; however, they may still evolve further through collision or accretion. Most of the basic models for these objects imply that neutron stars are composed almost entirely of neutrons (subatomic particles with no net electrical charge and with slightly larger mass than protons); the electrons and protons present in normal matter combine to produce neutrons at the conditions in a neutron star. Neutron stars are partially supported against further collapse by neutron degeneracy pressure, a phenomenon described by the Pauli exclusion principle, just as white dwarfs are supported against collapse by electron degeneracy pressure. However neutron degeneracy pressure is not sufficient to hold up an object beyond 0.7M☉ and repulsive nuclear forces play a larger role in supporting more massive neutron stars. If the remnant star has a mass exceeding the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit of around 2 solar masses, the combination of degeneracy pressure and nuclear forces is insufficient to support the neutron star and it continues collapsing to form a black hole. Neutron stars that can be observed are very hot and typically have a surface temperature of around 600000 K. They are so dense that a normal-sized matchbox containing neutron-star material would have a weight of approximately 3 billion metric tons, the same weight as a 0.5 cubic kilometre chunk of the Earth (a cube with edges of about 800 metres). Their magnetic fields are between 108 and 1015 (100 million to 1 quadrillion) times stronger than Earth's magnetic field. The gravitational field at the neutron star's surface is about 2×1011 (200 billion) times that of Earth's gravitational field. As the star's core collapses, its rotation rate increases as a result of conservation of angular momentum, hence newly formed neutron stars rotate at up to several hundred times per second. Some neutron stars emit beams of electromagnetic radiation that make them detectable as pulsars. Indeed, the discovery of pulsars by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish in 1967 was the first observational suggestion that neutron stars exist. The radiation from pulsars is thought to be primarily emitted from regions near their magnetic poles. If the magnetic poles do not coincide with the rotational axis of the neutron star, the emission beam will sweep the sky, and when seen from a distance, if the observer is somewhere in the path of the beam, it will appear as pulses of radiation coming from a fixed point in space (the so-called 'lighthouse effect'). The fastest-spinning neutron star known is PSR J1748-2446ad, rotating at a rate of 716 times a second or 43,000 revolutions per minute, giving a linear speed at the surface on the order of 0.24 c (i.e. nearly a quarter the speed of light). There are thought to be around 100 million neutron stars in the Milky Way, a figure obtained by estimating the number of stars that have undergone supernova explosions. However, most are old and cold, and neutron stars can only be easily detected in certain instances, such as if they are a pulsar or part of a binary system. Slow-rotating and non-accreting neutron stars are almost undetectable; however, since the Hubble Space Telescope detection of RX J185635−3754, a few nearby neutron stars that appear to emit only thermal radiation have been detected. Soft gamma repeaters are conjectured to be a type of neutron star with very strong magnetic fields, known as magnetars, or alternatively, neutron stars with fossil disks around them. Neutron stars in binary systems can undergo accretion which typically makes the system bright in X-rays while the material falling onto the neutron star can form hotspots that rotate in and out of view in identified X-ray pulsar systems. Additionally, such accretion can 'recycle' old pulsars and potentially cause them to gain mass and spin-up to very fast rotation rates, forming the so-called millisecond pulsars. These binary systems will continue to evolve, and eventually the companions can become compact objects such as white dwarfs or neutron stars themselves, though other possibilities include a complete destruction of the companion through ablation or merger. The merger of binary neutron stars may be the source of short-duration gamma-ray bursts and are likely strong sources of gravitational waves. In 2017, a direct detection (GW170817) of the gravitational waves from such an event was made, and gravitational waves have also been indirectly detected in a system where two neutron stars orbit each other. Any main-sequence star with an initial mass of above 8 times the mass of the sun (8 M☉) has the potential to produce a neutron star. As the star evolves away from the main sequence, subsequent nuclear burning produces an iron-rich core. When all nuclear fuel in the core has been exhausted, the core must be supported by degeneracy pressure alone. Further deposits of mass from shell burning cause the core to exceed the Chandrasekhar limit. Electron-degeneracy pressure is overcome and the core collapses further, sending temperatures soaring to over 5×109 K. At these temperatures, photodisintegration (the breaking up of iron nuclei into alpha particles by high-energy gamma rays) occurs. As the temperature climbs even higher, electrons and protons combine to form neutrons via electron capture, releasing a flood of neutrinos. When densities reach nuclear density of 4×1017 kg/m3, neutron degeneracy pressure halts the contraction. The infalling outer envelope of the star is halted and flung outwards by a flux of neutrinos produced in the creation of the neutrons, becoming a supernova. The remnant left is a neutron star. If the remnant has a mass greater than about 3 M☉, it collapses further to become a black hole. As the core of a massive star is compressed during a Type II supernova, Type Ib or Type Ic supernova, and collapses into a neutron star, it retains most of its angular momentum. But, because it has only a tiny fraction of its parent's radius (and therefore its moment of inertia is sharply reduced), a neutron star is formed with very high rotation speed, and then over a very long period it slows. Neutron stars are known that have rotation periods from about 1.4 ms to 30 s. The neutron star's density also gives it very high surface gravity, with typical values ranging from 1012 to 1013 m/s2 (more than 1011 times that of Earth). One measure of such immense gravity is the fact that neutron stars have an escape velocity ranging from 100,000 km/s to 150,000 km/s, that is, from a third to half the speed of light. The neutron star's gravity accelerates infalling matter to tremendous speed. The force of its impact would likely destroy the object's component atoms, rendering all the matter identical, in most respects, to the rest of the neutron star. A neutron star has a mass of at least 1.1 and perhaps up to more than 2.1 solar masses (M☉) (the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit), although the recent estimate puts the upper limit at 2.16 M☉. The maximum observed mass of neutron stars is about 2.01 M☉. However, in general, compact stars of less than 1.39 M☉ (the Chandrasekhar limit) are white dwarfs, whereas compact stars with a mass between 1.4 M☉ and 2.16 M☉ should be neutron stars (though there is an interval of a few tenths of a solar mass where the masses of low-mass neutron stars and high-mass white dwarfs can overlap). It is thought that beyond 2.16 M☉ the stellar remnant will overcome the neutron degeneracy pressure and gravitational collapse will usually occur to produce a black hole, though the smallest observed mass of a stellar black hole is about 5 M☉. Between 2.16 M☉ and 5 M☉, hypothetical intermediate-mass stars such as quark stars and electroweak stars have been proposed, but none have been shown to exist.