Mountains on Earth can get thousands and thousands of feet tall, but this isn’t the case with mountains on Neutron stars. A team of astrophysicists, with help of new models of neutron stars, has claimed that the tallest mountains on Neutron stars are less than millimeters tall due to the massive gravity of these incredibly dense objects in the known universe, except for black holes.
Weighing as much as our sun and being only 10 kilometers in size, Neutron stars are formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses on its own. They are called neutron stars because their gravity is so strong that the electrons in their atoms collapse into protons and forms neutrons.
These stars are so densely packed, that they have massive gravitational pull which is about a billion times stronger than Earth’s gravitational pull. Due to this kind of gravity, everything on the star has extremely small dimensions (especially height) making it an almost perfect sphere.
Now to study how mountains on Neutron stars were created, researchers used computational modeling to build realistic neutron stars. In their study, they investigated that ultra-dense nuclear matter played a role in supporting the mountains and found that the largest mountains produced are only a few millimeters tall (100x smaller than previously estimated), which could be the result of the immense gravity of the stars.
“For the past two decades, there has been much interest in understanding how large these mountains on Neutron stars can be before the crust of the neutron star breaks, and the mountain can no longer be supported,” said Fabian Gittins, an astrophysicist at the American University in a press release.
Previous work suggested that neutron stars could sustain deviations from a perfect sphere of up to a few parts in one million, meaning that mountains could be as large as a few centimeters. But the calculations during this were taken by assuming that the neutron star was strained in a way that the crust was close to breaking at every point, which new models challenges and suggest that those conditions are not possible in reality.