Maybe Neutron Stars 'Glitch Out' So Much Because They're Full of Soup - Tue 13 Aug 21:55 GMT

Why do some pulsars "glitch out" every few years? The answer could be in neutron soup.

  But the roughly 5% of neutron stars that are known to "glitch," or suddenly spin faster for no apparent reason before slowing to their normal speed, are especially odd.

  Now, a paper published yesterday (Aug. 12) in the journal reanalyzes a 2016 star glitch to provide a fresh perspective on the phenomenon — and the new approach involves soup (more on that in a minute).

  Related: 101 Astronomy Images That Will Blow Your Mind For the paper, the researchers looked at a nearby neutron star called the Vela pulsar, which twirls about 1,000 from Earth and normally spins about 11 times per second.

  The study authors said these distinct phases suggest that neutron stars have three internal components that contribute to a glitch: a rigid crust of ions connected in a lattice pattern, a roiling "soup" of freely floating neutrons forming the star's fluid inner crust, and made of protons, neutrons and possibly more exotic particles.

  Normally, the researchers wrote, all three layers of the star should spin independently of each other and at different speeds — however, during a glitch, it’s likely that the different components grip onto each other in unusual ways.

  According to lead study author Greg Ashton, an assistant lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, Vela's 2016 slowdown is "the first time [this phenomenon] has ever been seen" in a glitching star.

  This preliminary slowdown could be a type of triggering event that leads to all neutron star glitches; however, with no other data to support that hypothesis right now, the slowdown could just as easily be a one-off anomaly.