Hypertritons Helping Uphold Physics and Explaining What is in the Core of Neutron Stars

Photo credit: https://theconversation.com/unexpected-find-from-a-neutron-star-forces-a-rethink-on-radio-jets-103843

No need to worry the laws of our universe are still holding up. Physics for the most part still seems to be accurate, which is good news for us all. Recent research, published by The STAR Collaboration, has found hypertritons to have the same mass as it’s opposite, the antihypertriton. This discovery has allowed a long-standing theory of physics to be confirmed, that which states there is symmetry in nature.  It also has the potential to give us insight into one of the many unknowns of our universe, what lies in the center of a neutron star?

By confirming the identical mass of the Hypertritons, which are created when heavy element nuclei collide, and antihypertriton solidifies the charge-parity-time, or CPT, symmetry.  CPT is the fundamental base of much of the theories of the universe as no experimental observation has proven this symmetry false. If it was disproven physicists would need to rethink much of what has come to be accepted.  

Nuclei typically consist of protons and neutrons. Each containing quarks, specifically “up” and “down” quarks. The hypertriton is sort of a super-nucleus. Along with protons and neutrons it also contains hyperons.  These strange subatomic particles consist of quarks as well but contain what are known as “strange quarks”.  It has been previously hypothesized that hyperons make up a neutron stars core. However, many refute this theory based on the previously recorded low binding energy. The main debate is over the “softening” of the neutron star, caused by hyperons, which would cause the star to collapse making a black hole. 

In order to conduct the research, the collision of gold nuclei was initiated and the particles produced during the decay of the resulting hypernuclei were observed in the STAR detector. Hyperons have a short decay time but because they are traveling near the speed of light during the experiment the observation is possible.  

Photo credit: https://phys.org/news/2018-10-star-detector.html

The amount of energy to liberate a hyperon from the hypernuclei was measured during the process.  The energy found was recorded as 0.4 electron volts. Previous measurements were around 0.2 electron volts.  The increase in binding energy changes theories of the makeup of the core of a neutron star. Due to the incredible density of neutron stars, they are unable to be recreated in laboratories and thus little is known for sure.  However, with higher binding energy confirmed it would be possible for these subatomic particles to make up the core of a Neutron Star as the previously theorized softening would not necessarily occur. 

With the STAR collaboration recent discovery physicists will be able to use this newly acquired information to model neutron star’s cores. We are now one step closer to determining what lurks in the center of these elusive stellar objects.

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