Black stars, not just black holes, may be possible in our weird universe

New research predicts the existence of completely different kind of stars.

Groundbreaking research indicates that a totally new kind of star may exist in our wild Universe, one with characteristics between a neutron star and a black hole. One of its traits would be an ability to swallow light, but not forever - the light could theoretically escape. 


A black hole is a superdense area in space with gravity so strong that it doesn’t allow light to get out. Such a “hole” can range from being super-tiny, no more than an atom in size, to “supermassive” which has a mass of more than one million of our suns taken together.  

A neutron star is formed when a star collapses in a supernova which is not massive enough to produce a black hole. A neutron star could be as big as a city and is filled with, you guessed it, neutrons.  

The new study, carried out by the Italian physicist Raúl Carballo-Rubio from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), relied on mathematical calculations to show that another superdense kind of star structure may be possible. It has properties similar to previously-proposed black stars and gravastars, but now has the math to back it up.

«The novelty in this analysis is that, for the first time, all these ingredients have been assembled together in a fully consistent model,” said Carballo-Rubio in a press release. “Moreover, it has been shown that there exist new stellar configurations and that these can be described in a surprisingly simple manner». 

Carballo-Rubio’s model combines the attractive principles of general relativity with the repulsive effect of quantum vacuum polarization - the concept that a vacuum isn’t really empty but contains quantum energy and particles. The physicist showed that there are certain mass thresholds that determine what happens at the end of a star’s life when it nears collapse. At some point, a star would form what looks like a black hole but acts very differently like a "semiclassical relativistic star.” 

One big difference would be that such stars would not have event horizons, a feature shared with gravastars. There would be no “point of no return” for light or matter but the powerful gravitational fields of these stars would still warp light, reports Scientific American. Additionally, instead of having all mass concentrated in a central singularity, as shown by the work of Roger Penrose and the recently-departed Stephen Hawking, the mass would be distributed throughout this kind of star.

The existence of such a stellar object would also provide a solution to one nagging feature of the black hole theory - how can information (like light) be destroyed? That goes against the known laws of physics. If there was a black star, like the one described by Carballo-Rubio, it would work better with our existing framework. 

Do these stars really exist? One possibility is that they do but not for long. 

"It is not clear yet whether these configurations can be dynamically realised in astrophysical scenarios, or how long would they last if this is the case," said Carballo-Rubio.

He is hopeful, however, that if such “dense and ultracompact stars” do exist in the Universe, we should be able to detect them in the “next decades”.

You can read the new study in Physical Review Letters.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
popular
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less