Crab Cakes

By cjohnson | December 3, 2005 9:27 pm

Sorry…. I’m hungry and so all I can think of (almost) is food. Before I see to that, and go see the movie “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, I thought I’d suggest the following. Since I mentioned a neutron star in a recent post (somewhere in the babble), why not pop over to Centauri Dreams and look at a larger version of the photo below, with commentary. hubble crab nebulaIt is a Hubble space telescope image of the Crab Nebula, (mostly a light fluffy souffle of hydrogen gas) which contains within it a neutron star, left over from a supernova explosion that probably happened in the year 1054. Yes, a neutron star is a bit (a bit) like a giant nucleus…. it is a large collection of neutrons bound together by gravity (any protons that were present find it preferable to each aabsorb an electron and become a neutron in this situation)…. Normally, neutrons live happily with protons in a bound state which is very small…. the nuclei that make up the atoms that make us up, and other ordinary matter. A single nucleus is about 10^(-15) meters across. Tiny. A nuetron star is about 15-20 km…so 10^4 meters across. Way bigger.

I loved it when I first heard about them as a child. They were simply marvellous! Tell a child, maybe when you next meet one, about them some time. …My favourite factoid was that a teaspoon full of neutron star material would weigh over a billion tons here on earth. Paper weights for everybody!

-cvj

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