Life Cycle of Neutron Stars

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Life Cycle of Black Holes

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:07 Neutron Star Formation
  • 1:00 Neutron Star Density
  • 2:09 Pulsars
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Meyers

Amy holds a Master of Science. She has taught science at the high school and college levels.

Discover the life of a neutron star, including how it's born after a supernova explosion and how its extreme pressure causes protons and electrons to combine into neutrons. Discover also how pulsars are rotating neutron stars that will eventually slow down to become regular neutron stars.

Neutron Star Formation

A neutron star is created after a supernova and grows smaller and denser.
Neutron Star Picture

Hello. I am a neutron star. That is a star at the end of its life journey. I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself, how I came to be this way, what I'm like, and what I'll be in the future. I am a very old remnant of a star. At one time, I was huge, up to eight times bigger than your sun. Then I died in a gigantic explosion called a supernova.

This explosion blew my outer layers into space, but the core of my being remained behind. My core no longer does nuclear fusion, so there is no outward push from this reaction to counteract the force of gravity pushing in on me. This causes my core to collapse inward, getting really small and dense. This extreme density allows protons and electrons to combine into neutrons, which is where I get my name, neutron star. A neutron star is a small, dense star made mostly of neutrons.

Neutron Star Density

Although I am very small, only about 12 miles in diameter, I possess huge amounts of mass, several times the mass of your sun, so I am one of the densest objects known. Just a teaspoon of me would weigh millions of tons on Earth. The heavier I get, the smaller I get. I bet most humans would like that ability. It is as if a 10lb bag of sugar was smaller than a 5lb bag.

If you would like to be like me, you must start as a star of a certain size, not too big and not too small - somewhere around 4-8 times the mass of your sun. If you start too small, about the size of our sun or a little bigger, you will never get enough density and gravity to condense when you die, so you'll only end up a white dwarf. A white dwarf is a star, about the size of our sun, at the end of its life that has run out of energy and collapsed. A black hole is an object that is so dense, not even light can escape it.

If you start too big, you will have so much density and gravity you'll end up a black hole. You have to have a size right in that sweet spot to make it in the neutron star category. Kind of like a Radio City Music Hall Rockette - not too short, not too tall.


A pulsar is a rotating neutron star that appears to blink on and off.
Pulsar Diagram

Pulsars are rotating neutron stars. Some of my buddies are pulsars. These guys think they are so high and mighty because they appear to blink on and off to you observers on Earth. But let me tell you, all they are are newbies - new neutron stars that have enough energy to spin. As new neutron stars are forming, getting smaller and denser, they spin and emit radiation. You Earth people see this radiation and think it looks like a blinking star.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account