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Astronomers have identified about a half dozen exoplanets that may be made of an exotic matter known as “strange matter” unknown on Earth.
The atoms that make up conventional matter have nuclei made of protons and neutrons, and protons and neutrons are composed of subatomic particles called quarks. There are six kinds of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, bottom and top. Up and down quarks are the lightest. Each proton contains two up quarks and one down quark, whereas each neutron has two down quarks and one up quark.
Scientists - Quarks - Collisions - Particle - Accelerators
Scientists have created strange quarks through powerful collisions in particle accelerators, but these quarks quickly decayed into more stable particles. However, previous research suggested that strange quarks might prove stable within the superdense stellar corpses known as neutron stars.
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Neutron - Stars - Remains - Stars - Explosions
Neutron stars are the remains of large stars that died in cataclysmic explosions known as supernovas, each cramming a mass about 1.3 to 2.5 times that of the sun into a city-size sphere about 12 miles (20 kilometers) across. Their name derives from their exotic composition: The powerful gravitational pull of these remnants crushes protons and electrons together to form neutrons.
In theory, at the extreme pressures found in the cores of especially heavy neutron stars, neutrons might break down into a soup of their component quarks. Prior work suggested that, given enough pressure, half of the neutrons' down quarks might transform into strange quarks, leading to strange quark stars made of strange matter.
Principle - Matter - Matter - Matter - Matter
In principle, strange matter should be heavier and more stable than normal matter. Moreover, it might even be capable of converting ordinary matter it encounters into more strange matter. Previous research suggested that a strange quark star that occasionally spurts out strange matter could quickly convert a neutron star orbiting it in a binary system into a strange...
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