Astronomers at West Virginia University have found the most massive neutron star ever recorded, located about 4,600 light-years from Earth.

  • The massive neutron star, which has been dubbed J0740+6620, is very dense, about 2.17 times the mass of the sun packed into a sphere that’s only 15 miles across.
  • The researchers discovered J0740+6620 using the Green Bank Telescope in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
  • They published their findings on Monday, September 16, in the journal Nature Astronomy.
  • But the astronomers weren’t even looking to find an ultra-dense neutron star.
  • Instead, they were on the hunt for gravitational waves emitted from pulsars.
  • Scientists measure the mass of a neutron star using the “Shapiro Delay” phenomenon. The space around the star is warped due to its high gravitational pull. Pulses from a pulsar need to travel farther through that warped space, which makes them more time. That delay tells scientists how dense a neutron star is.
  • Scientists have been able to use gravitational waves to make several discoveries about neutron stars recently, including a pair of them smashing together to create a massive “kilonova.” Scientists believe that a similar kilonova that happened about 4.6 billion years ago might have been the source of gold and platinum on Earth.
What are Neutron Stars?
  • Neutron stars are one of the possible evolutionary end-points of high mass stars.
  • Once the core of the star has completely burned to iron, energy production stops and the core rapidly collapses, squeezing electrons and protons together to form neutrons and neutrinos thus producing a neutron star.
  • Neutron stars are very dense. (mass of three times the Sun can be fit in a sphere of just 20km in diameter).
  • If its mass is any greater, its gravity will be so strong that it will shrink further to become a black hole
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