Could you walk on a neu­tron star?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q & A - EL­LIOT WEBB, ASHFORD AGu

No. A neu­tron star has such an in­tense grav­i­ta­tional field and high tem­per­a­ture that you could not sur­vive a close en­counter of any kind. First of all, just get­ting onto the surface of the neu­tron star would be prob­lem­atic. Its grav­i­ta­tional pull would ac­cel­er­ate you so much you would smash into it at a good frac­tion of the speed of light. Even be­fore you ar­rived, the dif­fer­ence in grav­i­ta­tional pull be­tween your head and feet would al­ready have ripped your con­stituent atoms apart. Once there, though, your atomic nu­clei and their free elec­trons would im­pact the surface with suf­fi­cient en­ergy to spark ther­monu­clear re­ac­tions close to the su­per-dense surface. You would be­come a puff of gamma rays and X-rays, as your light el­e­ments were trans­formed into a cloud of heavy el­e­ments, neu­trons and ul­tra-rel­a­tivis­tic elec­trons. Even if you were some­how mag­i­cally trans­ported onto the neu­tron star, there­fore avoid­ing this en­er­getic im­pact, the mil­lion-de­gree tem­per­a­tures at the surface would va­por­ise (and ionise) you im­me­di­ately. The in­tense grav­ity would then flat­ten what was left of you as you merged into the su­per-dense crust of the neu­tron star. Un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances, tak­ing a leisurely walk would be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult!

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