Too young to be so cool: Lessons from three neutron stars

ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's Chandra spacecraft have detected three young neutron stars that are unusually cold for their age. By comparing their properties to different neutron star models, scientists conclude that the oddballs' ...

Einstein Telescope could launch a new era in astronomy

It's still just a plan, but a new telescope could soon be measuring gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are something like the sound waves of the universe. They are created, for example, when black holes or neutron stars ...

New insights on the role of nucleon exchange in nuclear fusion

Low-energy nuclear fusion reactions can potentially provide clean energy. In stars, low-energy fusion reactions during the stages of carbon and oxygen burning are critical to stellar evolution. These reactions also offer ...

Entangled neutrinos may lead to heavier element formation

Elements are the building blocks of every chemical in the universe, but how and where the different elements formed is not entirely understood. A new paper in The Astrophysical Journal by University of Wisconsin–Madison ...

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Neutron

The neutron is a subatomic particle with no net electric charge and a mass slightly larger than that of a proton.

Neutrons are usually found in atomic nuclei. The nuclei of most atoms consist of protons and neutrons, which are therefore collectively referred to as nucleons. The number of protons in a nucleus is the atomic number and defines the type of element the atom forms. The number of neutrons determines the isotope of an element. For example, the carbon-12 isotope has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, while the carbon-14 isotope has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.

While bound neutrons in stable nuclei are stable, free neutrons are unstable; they undergo beta decay with a lifetime of just under 15 minutes (885.7 ± 0.8 s). Free neutrons are produced in nuclear fission and fusion. Dedicated neutron sources like research reactors and spallation sources produce free neutrons for the use in irradiation and in neutron scattering experiments.

Even though it is not a chemical element, the free neutron is sometimes included in tables of nuclides. It is then considered to have an atomic number of zero and a mass number of one.

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