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A Finnish research group has found strong evidence for the presence of exotic quark matter inside the cores of the largest neutron stars in existence. The conclusion was reached by combining recent results from theoretical particle and nuclear physics to measurements of gravitational waves from neutron star collisions.

All normal matter surrounding us is composed of atoms, whose dense nuclei, comprising protons and neutrons, are surrounded by negatively charged electrons. Inside what are called neutron stars, atomic matter is, however, known to collapse into immensely dense nuclear matter, in which the neutrons and protons are packed together so tightly that the entire star can be considered one single enormous nucleus.

Up until now, it has remained unclear whether inside the cores of the most massive neutron stars nuclear matter collapses into an even more exotic state called quark matter, in which the nuclei themselves no longer exist. Researchers from the University of Helsinki now claim that the answer to this question is yes. The new results were published in the journal Nature Physics.

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Category: Science