Compact Stars

In astrophysics those stars in which the density of matter is much largerthan in ordinary stars are known as compact objects. These include white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. In addition to a very high density, the compact objects are characterised by the fact that nuclear reactions have completely ceased in their interiors. Consequently they cannot support themselves against gravity by thermal gas pressure. In the white dwarfs and neutron stars, gravity is resisted by the pressure of a degenerate gas. In the black holes the force of gravity is completely dominant and compresses the stellar material to infinite density.

Compact stars in binary systems give rise to a variety of striking new phenomena. If the companion star is losing mass by a stellar wind or a Roche lobe overflow, the gas that is shed may be accreted by the compact object. This will release gravitational energy that can be observable in the form of X-ray emission and strong and rapid brightness variations.

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