Curiosity is mounting among scientists and astronomers regarding HESS J1731-347, the record-breaking neutron star. Scientists have suggested that it could be the lightest neutron star ever found to date, or maybe it’s something else entirely!
What’s a Neutron Star?
There are stars in the galaxy that contain a mass of 10-25 times more than the sun. When these stars go supernova, they leave behind a neutron star. A neutron star is a highly dense object, which can contain a weight similar to a mountain in just a teaspoon of its material. Neutrons are electrically neutral, so any electromagnetic repulsion is absent in them. Despite weighing like, or more than, the sun, a neutron star is not usually much bigger than a city. It’s the incredible densities of those neutron stars that prevent them from turning into black holes.
The New Neutron Star
It’s the mass assessment of the new-found neutron star that has made scientists intrigued. HESS J1731-347 has an estimated mass of just 0.77 times the sun. In a new research paper, the group of scientists working on this star stated that with such a lightweight mass, it can potentially be a more exotic object under the category of a ‘strange star.’ They further elaborated that they had declared the star as possibly the lightest-ever neutron star, based on the robust result of their assessment. But there’s also a range of intriguing possibilities lying in the star.
The Process of Estimation
The group of scientists made the mass estimate of HESS J1731-347 by using X-ray observations from the XMM-Newton observatory. They also measured the precise distance of the star from Gaia. They have described this particular neutron star as the CCO or the ‘central compact object’ at the core of the remnant of a supernova, which is basically the cloud of debris produced by the explosion of a star. Now it remains to be seen what other characteristics the new neutron star might have held inside it.
The ‘Murder Hornet’ Apocalypse Rumor May Have Been Exaggerated
If there is one thing that 2020 was lacking, it was a ‘murder hornet’ apocalypse. That’s why when people spotted two Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) near British Columbia and Washington last May, the media was quick to ‘foresee’ it as a hornet disaster. Even though the same species was spotted the year before, somehow, it wasn’t worthy of making headlines at the time.
The Invasion Isn’t as Apocalyptic as Headlines Suggest
As is with most things in life, the truth about the hornet apocalypse lies with science and not the media. For starters, these predatory insects feed on honeybees and not people. What’s more, big hornets have invaded parts of the United States before, and scientists have mounted great efforts to eradicate them each time. Washington officials located and destroyed the first nest just a couple of months after the first hornet was spotted last spring, and scientists say the intruders won’t be able to sweep across the country due to a “challenging habitat.” Do you need more reason to doubt the apocalypse now?
People Seemingly Want to Believe the ‘Murder Hornet’ Scenario
Although the situation has been contained, entomologists from around the country say that concerned readers continue to call them scared and convinced the hornets are in their backyard. One entomologist, Gale Ridge, from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station based in New Haven says, this reaction is most likely the result of “half-listening and overdramatization” of the faux facts presented by the media. He often has to explain to frazzled callers that these hornets have been spotted more than 3,000 miles away from New Haven and that there’s no reason to panic.
Gale has taken matters into her own hands by working to educate locals about the different species often mistaken for Asian giant hornets, such as cicada-killer wasps and European hornets. They say knowledge is power, and Ridge’s approach is definitely helping to ease the ‘murder hornet’ anxiety.