An unexpected astronomical scale

Thursday, March 29, 2012
A neutron star next to Manhattan (Fogonazos)
When dealing with the sizes of celestial objects we are used to mind-bendingly huge objects. For example, if the sun were the size of a basketball the nearest planet to it, Mercury, would be a little smaller than a BB and sit some 33 feet away from the basketball/Sun. The earth would be a small pebble, roughly 1/12 of an inch in diameter, and sit 86 feet away.

Conversely,  the diameter of a red giant star would reach more than 2/3rds of the way to Earth's orbit.

That's what makes the above picture so startling. It is a neutron star compared to the size of Manhattan. Neutron stars are the remnants of super novas. Although small, they are extremely dense. They can contain 1.5 to 2 times the matter of a star the size of the sun. The force of the super nova compresses them so much that protons and electrons are forced together and converted into neutrons, which are tightly packed with only quantum forces keeping them from collapsing entirely.    

I love astronomy, but it  never ceases to humble as it surprises