Quantum simulations reveal cycle secrets

Scientists have made significant progress in understanding neutron star defects through experiments with ultracold supersolids. This research, which combines quantum mechanics and astrophysics, reveals new details about the internal dynamics of neutron stars and opens up new ways to simulate stellar phenomena.

Combining quantum mechanics and astrophysics is illuminating Neutron star defects.

Neutron stars have fascinated and puzzled scientists since their signature was first detected in 1967. Periodic flashes of light and rapid rotation, neutron stars are among the densest objects in the universe, with mass comparable to the Sun but compressed. The sphere is about 20 kilometers in diameter. These stellar objects exhibit a peculiar behavior called a „stagger,” where the star suddenly accelerates its rotation. This phenomenon suggests that neutron stars may be somewhat redundant. In a superfluid, the rotation is characterized by an infinite number of small vortices, each containing a fraction of angular momentum. As these eddies escape from the star’s inner crust into its solid outer crust, a perturbation occurs, increasing the star’s rotational speed.

Ultracold quantum gases simulate the mechanisms inside a neutron star

Ultracold quantum gases composed of dipole atoms provide an excellent platform for simulating the mechanisms inside neutron stars. Credit: Elena Pauli

Supersolids and Neutron Star Research

A key ingredient for this study lies in the concept of a „supersolid” — a state exhibiting both crystalline and superfluid properties — that is predicted to be a necessary ingredient for neutron star disorders. The scaled vortices nest within the supersolid until they collectively exit, resulting in the star’s outer crust being absorbed, accelerating its rotation. Recently, the supersolid phase was realized in experiments with ultracold dipole atoms, providing a unique opportunity to simulate the conditions inside a neutron star.

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Breakthrough research in quantum mechanics and astrophysics

A recent study by researchers from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Laboratorio Nazionale del Gran Sasso and the Gran Sasso Science Institute in Italy demonstrates that defects can occur in ultracold supersolids. Neutron stars. This innovative approach allows for a detailed study of the dislocation mechanism, including its dependence on the quality of the supersolid. „Our research establishes a strong link between quantum mechanics and astrophysics and provides a new perspective on the inner nature of neutron stars,” says first author Elena Pauli. Defects provide valuable insights into the internal structure and dynamics of neutron stars. By studying these phenomena, scientists can learn more about the properties of matter under extreme conditions.

„This research shows a new approach to gain insights into the behavior of neutron stars and opens new avenues for quantum simulations of stellar materials from low-energy Earth observatories,” emphasizes Francesca Ferlaino.

Note: Elena Polly, Thomas Plant, Samuel J.M. White, Manfred J. “Defects in rotating supersolids,” by Mark, Francesca Ferlaino, Silvia Trabucco, and Massimo Mannarelli, 29 Nov. 2023, Physical review letters.
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.131.223401

The thesis has been published Physical review letters and was financially supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF and the European Research Council ERC.

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