I'm curious what might need to be considered if a group were exploring the vicinity if a neutron star. Gravitational waves and radiation could be dangers, but what else?

Is it possible that habitable worlds could still be in orbit around a neutron star, not flung away by it's transition?

  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Oh please! Not the old definition game. "Habitable" simply means something or someone lives there. A habitable planet orbiting a neutron star will have life of sort living there. Such planets might not exist in reality, but the concept itself is readily comprehended. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 21 '17 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ You can forget gravitational waves as being a problem. The conditions aren't right to generate them in the vicinity of a single neutron star. Even neutron star binaries they aren't a problem unless they collide. Even then, it's the collateral kilonova that does all the damage. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 21 '17 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Your response suggests you have either misunderstand my comment or failed to read it with sufficient care. Also, I wasn't playing the definition game. A commonsense understanding of the concept was all I was invoking. I prefer any kind of habitable planet around a neutron star to be scientifically interesting. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 21 '17 at 13:10

Yes but don't go there!
The general environment is very dangerous and life if it exists at all would probably resemble lower forms of life we might expect to see in the ocean deapths here on earth.

Pulsar PSR B1257+12 does actually have planets (one of the few known to do so). This planetary system contains pulsar that spins on its axis every 6 milliseconds and three planets. The closest planet has the size of the Moon, whereas the other two are so-called Super-Earths, 4 times more massive than the Earth. They orbit the pulsar at a distance which is a bit less than half the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

The levels of radiation would be a massive problem with X-rays thousands to millions of time more intense than the Sun. Pulsars also emit charged particles with speeds close to that of light. This so called pulsar wind is capable of stripping the atmosphere off of a planet and producing heat and gamma rays in the process.

However calculations have shown that if the planet is a super earth it can take several hundreds of millions to several billion years to achieve this, due to the very dense atmosphere on a super earth.

Even a pulsar can have a goldilocks zone, although the spread of this zone would be somewhat different to what we would expect due to pulsar wind heating effects. It is just conceivable that some of these super earths might harbour some form of life, although it would be very different from what we expect. It would be more like that you might expect at the bottom of an ocean trench. It would live in a completely dark, very thick warm black fog due to the ultra thick atmosphere expected on such a world.

So Gravitational waves – not a problem Radiation - massive problem Pulsar wind - also a massive problem Alien beings – unlikely but if they do exist they are not likely to be an advanced form of life so would be the least of you’re worries.



No gravitational waves unless something exciting is currently happening, like a merger with another neutron star. But there will be strong tidal forces if you get too close, which was the plot of Larry Niven’s short story “Neutron Star”. “Too close” is pretty close, of course. From a tidal and gravitational point of view, a neutron star is indistinguishable from a regular star of the same mass at the same distance, except that you can get closer than you can to a regular star without actually being inside it.

Planets might still be in orbit, but they wouldn’t be habitable any more, having been sterilised by the supernova that created the neutron star.

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    $\begingroup$ The science about neutron stars in Larry Niven's "Neutron Star" is very outdated. Pulsars or magnetars are the likely candidates for what we would call a neutron star. Any planets will be effectively lifeless from the supernova. Plus there wouldn't be enough time for life to re-emerge. A rogue planet captured by the pulsar might be plausible for a habitable planet. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 21 '17 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ Some solitary neutron stars are expected to radiate gravitational waves if asymmetries in the crust are large enough, so you don't need something too exciting for them to generate gravitational waves. The emission wouldn't necessarily be very strong; it depends on the conditions. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 22 '17 at 15:56

You can't forget the magnetic field. Neutron stars have the strongest magnetic fields of all stars, with a range of 10^4 to 10^11 Teslas. This would be enough to magnetize pretty much anything, even wood. So if your ship or vehicle is made of metal... good luck. For the sake of making it possible, you could make something similar to a Faraday jail around the vehicle and passengers to make them withstand the magnetic forces, but, as far as I know, this solution does not have anything to back it up scientifically. Take into account that the passengers would need a personal one to do extra vehicular operations.


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