We have seen in earlier VERITAS articles that neutron stars are stars that consist only of neutrons of atoms. So the atoms are not there.
The electrons and protons that form normal atoms have been stripped off in neutron stars. So a neutron star is a pure huge collection of neutrons. A neutron star is VERY dense. A teaspoon of a neutron star can weigh a million tonnes!
What is denser than a neutron star? A black hole! It is so massive that it does not even let light escape it.
Till a few years back two stars designated RXJ185635-3754 and 3C58 were thought to be neutron stars. But a more detailed analysis using the laws of Physics showed that they were much more dense than what they would have been if they were neutron stars. But they are not black holes either. So their density is between a neutron star and a black hole!
But what kind of matter can be so dense?? We know that neutrons, electrons and protons are made up of quarks. If a neutron star gets too dense then the individual neutrons break and the quarks come out and fuse together. This kind of matter- formed by a collection of quarks is called “strange matter” or “quark matter”. And a star formed from this type of matter is called a “strange star”. So a strange star is not composed of neutrons but is composed of quarks. There are three kinds of quarks that form strange stars: up quark, down quark and strange quark.
So we have a weird new form of matter: composed of quarks only.
Note that all matter is ultimately composed of quarks. But normal matter consists of quarks bound together as electrons, protons and neutrons and these bound in a atomic structure and those further bound as molecules. Strange matter is just a sea of quarks connected to each other without any other detailed structure. Theories suggest that strange matter may be stable and thus exist under normal conditions. Our universe could be full of strange stars of various sizes or small groups of quarks bound together. A small group of quarks bound together is called a strangelet. A strangelet may be microscopically small. Our universe may be full of strangelets.
When ordinary matter comes in contact with a strangelet, the massive gravitational pull of the strangelet pulls the quarks out of the ordinary matter. So the quarks of the ordinary matter fuse with the strangelet to increase its size. So ordinary matter is “eaten” by the strangelet.
We know that a huge amount of mass in our Universe is unaccounted for. Theories of Physics predict a much larger mass of the universe than what we see around us. This unaccounted mass has been named “dark matter”.
Scientists are desperately searching for it. Some Physicists suggest that strange matter may be able to explain this unaccounted mass. Dark matter may just be strange matter!
“Call it then, what thou wilt-
Call it bliss! Heart! Love! God!
I have no name to give it!
Feeling is all in all:
The Name is sound and smoke
Obscuring Heaven’s clear glow.” – Goethe ( Faust )
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;