Could you walk on a neutron star?

I'm walking on sunshine, ohhhhh oh ohh.

14th August 2017
Could you walk on a neutron star? (Getty)

Asked by: Elliot Webb, Ashford

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! 

Read more: 


SFQASubscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.