ABOUT THIS BOOK
The astonishing science of neutron stars and the stories of the scientists who study them.
Neutron stars are as bewildering as they are elusive. The remnants of exploded stellar giants, they are tiny, merely twenty kilometers across, and incredibly dense. One teaspoon of a neutron star would weigh several million tons. They can spin up to a thousand times per second, they possess the strongest magnetic fields known in nature, and they may be the source of the most powerful explosions in the universe. Through vivid storytelling and on-site reporting from observatories all over the world, Neutron Stars offers an engaging account of these still-mysterious objects.
Award-winning science journalist Katia Moskvitch takes readers from the vast Atacama Desert to the arid plains of South Africa to visit the magnificent radio telescopes and brilliant scientists responsible for our knowledge of neutron stars. She recounts the exhilarating discoveries, frustrating disappointments, and heated controversies of the past several decades and explains cutting-edge research into such phenomena as colliding neutron stars and fast radio bursts: extremely powerful but ultra-short flashes in space that scientists are still struggling to understand. She also shows how neutron stars have advanced our broader understanding of the universe—shedding light on topics such as dark matter, black holes, general relativity, and the origins of heavy elements like gold and platinum—and how we might one day use these cosmic beacons to guide interstellar travel.
With clarity and passion, Moskvitch describes what we are learning at the boundaries of astronomy, where stars have life beyond death.
Taking us behind the scenes of scientific exploration, Katia Moskvitch introduces the people responsible for advancing our understanding of neutron stars and communicates the feeling of amazement that accompanies unexpected discovery.
-- Jocelyn Bell Burnell, codiscoverer of pulsars
Neutron stars, super-dense balls of nuclear matter at the end-points of stellar evolution, are detectable from Earth through their emission of radio and gravitational waves. Katia Moskvitch provides a fascinating tour of the world’s most sensitive detectors for such radiation, the prediction and discovery of neutron stars, their place in the grand cosmic scheme, and up-close views of many of the gifted astrophysicists behind these discoveries.
-- Joseph H. Taylor, Jr., winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics
Moskvitch offers riveting explanations of what astronomers have learned so far using radio telescopes, starting with Jocelyn Bell’s discovery in 1967 of the first pulsar, and what puzzles remain in the tantrums as well as quiet murmur of neutron stars.
-- Priyamvada Natarajan New York Review of Books
Enthralling…Moskvitch skillfully explicates these bizarre celestial objects, memorably dubbing them ‘cosmic zombies’ for the way they send radio waves, gamma rays, and x-rays after the ‘death’ of the stars from which they originate…Carl Sagan devotees will relish this portrayal of a new frontier in science.
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Fantastic…Not only are there great insights into the physics that underpin these zombie stars, but they are often explained using anecdotes from scientists all over the globe…Moskvitch has written a beautiful book of personal stories, entwined with an exploration of these exotic stellar objects.
-- Amber Hornsby BBC Sky at Night
For astronomers, neutron stars are the gift that keeps on giving. For more than fifty years, a crescendo of discoveries has amazed us and led us to probe the laws of physics to the breaking point. Katia Moskvitch recounts the key advances and clearly explains the underlying science. And she has the journalistic skills to offer readers a real feel for what it's like to be part of the international community of astronomers—experiencing triumphs and disappointments in the quest to discover exotic cosmic phenomena.
-- Martin Rees, author of On the Future
If watching Tom Cruise in Top Gun made some want to be navy pilots, this book will make many young scientists want to become detectives of the universe. Katia Moskvitch takes us through the history of our understanding of the enigmatic neutron stars in a book that is punctuated with human stories, crazy ideas, novel instrumentation, and profound discoveries. This rich tale is an inspiring account of the process of science.
-- France A. Córdova, former Director of the National Science Foundation
A remarkable encounter with remote radio observatories, mind-boggling theories, and the most bizarre objects in the universe. Packed with information but accessible throughout, this fast-paced book is a wonderful introduction to the most exciting topics in current astronomy.
-- Govert Schilling, author of Ripples in Spacetime
An extraordinary blending of scales and disciplines, from astrophysics to particle physics, Neutron Stars faithfully describes one of the most active frontiers of science today, and introduces the exciting new field of multi-messenger astronomy.
-- Stavros Katsanevas, Director of the European Gravitational Observatory
Katia Moskvitch takes the reader on a breakneck tour of the last century of thought and observation into neutron stars. Her research is impeccable, with complicated concepts presented in an easily understood manner. I highly recommend Neutron Stars to anyone who wants to learn not only about the history of neutron star research, but also the current race to understand fast radio bursts, magnetars, and colliding neutron stars.
-- Stephen R. Taylor, Vanderbilt University
With journalistic flair, unlimited enthusiasm, and enviable travel funds, Moskvitch has visited radio telescopes on five continents, spoken to many of the key researchers including Jocelyn Bell, and managed to connect a surprising number of dots to give a big picture view of the Universe.
-- Michael Gross Chemistry & Industry
A detailed overview of what we know, and have yet to find out, about neutron stars and their place in the universe…Engaging.
-- Jeff Foust Space Review
An enjoyable read about an area of science in which remarkable advances-in-insight have been made in recent years—and where much promising work looks to be possible.
-- Complete Review
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. A Collision That Shook the Cosmos
Deeper Dive: The Origin of Gold
Deeper Dive: Why Was the Kilonova Blue?
2. Discovering Neutron Stars ... and Little Green Men?
Deeper Dive: The Interstellar Medium, Home of Neutron Stars
3. When Stars Go Boom
Deeper Dive: Pulsar Kicks
Deeper Dive: The Death of Massive Stars
4. Zombies and Starquakes
Deeper Dive: The Multibeam
Deeper Dive: The Exotic World of X-ray Sources
Deeper Dive: Pulsar Timing
5. Journey to the Center of a Neutron Star
Color photos follow page
6. How Neutron Stars Keep Spoiling Dark Matter Theories
7. When Pulsars Have Planets
8. Giant Scientific Tools of the Universe
Deeper Dive: Kepler’s Laws and Beyond
9. Fast Radio Bursts, an Unfinished Chapter