Pulsars and isolated neutron stars

  • Werner Becker
  • George Pavlov


The idea of neutron stars can be traced back to the early 1930s, when Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, while investigating the physics of stellar evolution, discovered that there is no way for a collapsed stellar core with a mass more than 1.4 times the solar mass, M , to hold itself up against gravity once its nuclear fuel is exhausted (Chandrasekhar 1931). This implies that a star left with M>1.4M (the Chandrasekhar limit) would keep collapsing and eventually disappear from view. After the discovery of the neutron by James Chadwick in 1932, Lev Landau was the first to speculate on the possible existence of a star composed entirely of neutrons (Landau 1932, Rosenfeld 1974).Using the newly eslablishcd Fermi-Dirac statistics and basic quantum mechanics, he was able to estimate that such a star, consisting of ~1057 neutrons, would form a giant nucleus with a radius of the order of R ~ (h/m n c)(hc/Gm n 2 )1/2 ~ 3 × 105cm in which ℏ, c, G and m n are the rationalized Planck constant, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, and the mass of the neutron. In view of the peculiar stellar parameters, Landau called these objects unheimliche Sterne (“wcird Stars”), expecting that they would never be observed because of their small size and expccted low optica! luminosity.


Neutron Star Radio Pulsar Supernova Remnant Crab Nebula Crab Pulsar 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Werner Becker
    • 1
  • George Pavlov
    • 2
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische PhysikGarching bei MünchenGermany
  2. 2.Penn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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