Scientists have made a significant breakthrough in the study of neutron stars using ultra-cold quantum gases. Neutron stars are known for their periodic eruptions and rapid rotation, and are some of the densest objects in the universe. Despite having a mass similar to that of our sun, they are compressed into a sphere with a diameter of only around 20 kilometers.
One intriguing phenomenon exhibited by neutron stars is called a “glitch,” where the star suddenly accelerates its rotation. This suggests that neutron stars may have a partially superfluid state. In this state, the rotation is characterized by numerous small vortices, with each carrying a portion of the angular momentum. A glitch occurs when these vortices transition from the star’s inner crust to its solid outer crust, causing an increase in rotational speed.
The study’s key concept is the idea of a “superfluid core,” which exhibits both crystalline and superfluid properties. This core is believed to play a crucial role in the occurrence of glitches in neutron stars.
Quantum vortices remain within the superfluid core until they collectively break out and are absorbed by the star’s external crust, resulting in an acceleration of its rotation. Recent experiments with ultra-cold dipolar atoms have successfully implemented the superfluid phase, providing a unique opportunity to model the conditions inside a neutron star.
Researchers from the University of Innsbruck, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the National Grand Prix of Ssoo, and the Scientific Institute of Gran Sasso in Italy have now demonstrated that glitches can occur in ultra-cold superfluid cores, which serve as universal analogues of the internal regions of neutron stars.
This innovative approach allows for a detailed investigation of the glitch mechanism, including its dependence on the quality of the superfluid core. Elena Poly, the lead author of the study, highlights the significance of the research, stating, “Our study establishes a strong connection between quantum mechanics and astrophysics and provides new insights into the inner nature of neutron stars.” Glitches provide valuable information about the internal structure and dynamics of these celestial objects, offering scientists a deeper understanding of matter under extreme conditions
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