Neutron Stars Are Scarier Than Black Holes!

Unveiling the Power and Fear of Neutron Stars: Exploring their Formation, Characteristics, and Unprecedented Density

Video of the day December 1st 2019


Let’s Define A Black Hole

Before we get into the power and fear of Neutron Stars, it’s important to know exactly what a Black Hole is and why they too are to be feared. Because while you might have a loose definition as to what they are what they do, they’re actually far more complex than you might realize. Which is why many people in NASA and other space programs are fascinated by them.

If you’re looking for a technical definition, this is how NASA describes Black Holes:

“A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.”

This singularity as it is often called is a bit of a mystery in space, and for a very good reason. You see, black holes can form in large sizes, small sizes, and sometimes they don’t even need a fully fledged star to form at all! Which is scary in the sense that it means black holes can form in various ways.

Plus, since no light can actually escape them, it means that they can’t technically be seen by  anyone. That being said, it’s easy to “see their work”, as the intense gravity of the Black Holes is enough to stretch objects from their “starting point” and slowly pull them to the Black Hole. This is known as spaghettification, because like a stretched piece of spaghetti, the object will get thinner and thinner until nothings exists but particles. And if you think that a Black Hole is limited in what it can absorb, you would be wrong. Very wrong in fact. If it is close enough, it’ll break down a star, a planet, multiple stars and planets at once, etc. It’s a question of range more than anything.

But there’s a catch to that, as you won’t be able to observe the spaghettification yourself. Why? Remember, no light escapes the void that is the Black Hole, so because of that, you’ll see the last known position of the object that light allows you to see. It’ll seem like they’re stuck in place and slowly going away until they’re gone. When in fact, they or it will be slowly pulled apart. 

So just based on that alone you can see why Black Holes aren’t just an entity in space, they’re something to be feared by every living thing, and NASA is trying to map them all out in the universe as best they can so that we don’t get caught up in them at any point in time.

So given all of that fear and power that Black Holes give off, how the heck is a star scarier than that?

The Birth Of A Neutron Star

Believe it or not, Black Holes and Neutron Stars do share many things in common aside from being objects of great power and being something to avoid when possible. For example, the way they’re created is somewhat similar, as they both depend on the death of stars in certain cases (Black Holes can form many different ways for the record).

Stars may not look it, but just like planets they thrive on a certain balance. Mainly, the balance of the gasses that are within them and the gravity that is exerted on them. The reason that stars are able to be balls of gas in the sky is because of this balance. The gravity of the star pushes gasses like Hydrogen and Helium down, causing molecules to fuse in order to emit light and energy, which is why we feel warm because of the sun. However, eventually, the gasses needed to maintain the balance, in this case Hydrogen and Helium, gets burned out. When that balance is thrown out the window, bad things start to happen.

Usually when the balance is disrupted the sun will transform into a red supergiant, where it will begin the end of its lifecycle before it gets turned back into a new star via a White Dwarf. But in certain massive stars, the balance that is lost by the gasses that are gone causes a chain reaction. One that causes the core of the massive star to be compressed, and that gets a chain reaction of elements to transform into one thing and then another until only Iron is left. Yeah, a star can literally turn its core into solid Iron, and that’s bad.

Because Iron has no energy to give off, and that massive ball of iron will get crushed by the gravity of the star itself. Then, the electrons of the core will start to transform into Neutrons, and via the compression of both the core and the outer layer, a “supernova explosion” will occur. Where the core continues to be compressed, but everything else in the star is jettisoned into the wilds of space itself. This is cool in context, especially when you consider that the light that will be emitted by this explosion can eclipse entirely galaxies (which means you probably shouldn’t stare at it…you’ll go blind), which shows just how powerful the explosion is.

However, the result of all of this compression and destruction is a Neutron Star, which is one of the most powerful and violent things in the entire universe.

Neutron Stars

So you’ve seen me wax on about the “power” of a Neutron Star, but you know doubt are wondering why it should be feared. I mean, I just noted that it was born via an explosion that could blind whole galaxies, but shouldn’t that be the end of its power? No, not even closer. Because just in terms of its size and mass a Neutron Star is to be feared.

Sure, when you look at it, it’s MUCH smaller than other stars. The average size of a Neutron Star is about 25 kilometers across, which is many, many, MANY times smaller than just the radius of our sun. BUT, the mass that it has within that tiny frame is the mass of over 1 million Earths! That’s a lot of mass for not a lot of size. It’d kind of be like if your home you’re living in had the entire mass of a planet in it. Or for a more funny visual, imagine being able to have a sugar cube with the mass of Mount Everest as you put it in your cup of coffee. Talk about a sugar rush, am I right?

But that’s still not the only thing you should be worried about when it comes to these Neutron Stars. Let’s talk about the gravity of them. The ONLY thing in the universe that has stronger gravity than Neutron Stars are Black Holes. And that makes them even deadlier in some ways because you can see the Neutron Star and think that you’re outside its gravity range, but it’s so much stronger than you think that you’ll get caught up in them and think that you’re caught in something else. That’s how strong they are.

Oh, and the temperature of a Neutron Sun? Multiple times hotter than our sun, by a wide margin in fact. The surface of a Neutron Star can reach up to one million degrees Celsius, while the sun that we have in our sky reaches around 6000 degrees Celsius. And to remind you, our sun is many times larger than a Neutron Star, so that shows how size does and doesn’t always matter.

This illustration shows the hot, dense, expanding cloud of debris stripped from the neutron stars just before they collided.

The Inside Of Neutron Stars

When you think about a star, let’s just say our own sun for an example, the last thing you think of is that they’re “solid”. Because they’re not. They may appear to be a solid ball of gas, but that’s just the amount of volume of gas within them giving the appearance of being solid. The exception to this rule though is the Neutron Star. Because as noted in their creation, their cores become solid iron at one point, which isn’t something that happens to most stars. That core doesn’t exactly stick around when it transforms into a Neutron Star, but it’s doesn’t exactly go away either.

A great way to look at it is that the Neutron Star becomes its own kind of planet if you will. As it has definitive “layers” that it didn’t have before. The first layer is the “atmosphere”, which is the part that we see from afar via telescopes and such. The second layer is the “crust”, as that’s the hard shell that is the remains of the iron transformation that happened during the process of becoming a Neutron Star. It was put into a crystal lattice of sorts that is held together by electrons.

But here’s the twist in the tale. Recall that the iron was created because of the enormous pressures of the gravity of the star collapsing upon itself. That gravity is still present, even moreso now than before if you think about it as all that mass has to be confined to the much smaller state. That means that when you get to the “bottom” later of the “crust”, you’re going to find something rather unexpected. Neutron Pasta.

Neutron Pasta

No, this doesn’t mean you can eat a star, are you really that hungry? Come on, let’s try and focus here.

The crust of the Neutron Star, not unlike our own planet, has many layers in its crust, and once you get to the bottom the gravity is so intense that the Protons and Neutrons that make up the star are compressed to such a level that they’re literally touching. This doesn’t happen very often in natural life in stars and in the universe at large. But yeah, it happens in a Neutron Star. When it does occur, the molecules merge together and then are stretched out. Think of it as their own form of “spaghetification”. They’re stretched and then flattened, becoming both spaghetti and lasagna at the same time. This is why it’s called “Neutron Pasta”.

Sounds tasty I’m sure, but I wouldn’t bite into it if you value your teeth. Mainly because it’s theorized that Neutron Pasta is so compacted and so dense that it’s the hardest substance in the entire universe. Yes, even more dense than the inside of a black hole…and we don’t even know what the inside of a black hole is like.

For a example of how dense it is. Sometimes a “lump of pasta” from the crust area will only be a few centimeters high, and yet have the density of the Himalayas…many times over. And that’s just one lump, imagine a whole section of it.

We’re still not at the bottom of the star though, because like our planet, there is a core.

Neutron Star Core

Arguably one of the biggest mysteries about a Neutron Star (not unlike a Black Hole) is what is at its core. Mainly because while we can predict what happens in the “crust” of the star, we can’t predict what is at the core. Sure, we can speculate that it’s something liquid in part, mainly because that is what would be needed to emit energy and thus allow the star to continue to live, but outside of that? Yeah, we don’t know.

This isn’t for lack of trying, but rather, the core of the Neutron Star would have to have even tougher gravity than the ones at the bottom of the crust layer. Meaning that the “Neutron Pasta” would have to be compressed even further, and scientists can’t speculate what would happen to the molecules if they are compressed even further.

Some state that it may turn into various theoretical types of “Quark Matter“, even referring to it as “Strange Quark” because they have no earthly idea what would happen to them in that state.

At least humanity is consistent, we really don’t know what’s at the core of Earth as well.


There are many types of Neutron Stars out there in the universe, but the most popular one in terms of numbers is that of a Pulsar. What is a Pulsar? To put it very basically, a Pulsar is a Neutron Star that spins rapidly. And by rapidly I do mean many times per second. When they do that they send out a menagerie of radio waves, as well as various types of radiation like Gamma Radiation. 

The pulses of these Pulsars are so strong that the magnetic field they create around the Neutron Star are the strongest in the universe by far. To compare it to our own planet, it’d be about a quadrillion times more powerful. So yeah, that’s very, very strong.

Neutron Stars Can Crash Into One Another And Create Black Holes

If you’re still looking for definitive proof that Neutron Stars are scarier than Black Holes (we talked about it in this video), then here you go. Because while there are about 2000 Pulsars in the Milky Way alone, there are also a bunch of Neutron Stars that like to “mingle” with one another. They’ll orbit around one another and eventually crash into one another with such force they’ll create a “kilonova” explosion that sends all sorts of particles into the universe.

This will also create the perfect conditions for them to fuse, collapse, and then create a black hole. So why are Neutron Stars scarier than Black Holes? Because they have multiple kinds of lives, defy physics in many ways, and even when they die, they still create havoc by becoming Black Holes.

And you thought Earth was scary.

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