A Book About Neutron Stars

Neutron Stars by Katia Moskvitch is the brilliant story of our understanding of neutron stars, not just a book about neutron stars.

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Neutron Stars by Katia Moskvitch is a recent addition to the Milky-Way.Kiwi library. It is no ordinary book about neutron stars and is a delight to read. This is a fantastic book that takes the reader through the story of our understanding of these weird stellar objects. The journey that Katia takes us on makes this a great book to read. In addition, Katia walks us through the remnants of the radio telescope at Cambridge and we ascend the mountains in Chile to the Atacama Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Also, the reader is walking in the footsteps of the astrophysicists who uncovered how neutron stars work.

the book
Neutron Stars, The Quest To Understand The Zombies of The Cosmos, Katia Moskvitch.

Katia takes us to meet Jocelyn Bell and shows us the role she played in building the radio telescope array there. After that she explains how Jocelyn’s went on to discover the first pulsar. The author successfully communicates the basics of neutron stars and how they form. The book takes us to the Cow and through the work of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. We meet Fritz Zwicky who coined the term ‘supernova’ and we follow his story as his theories start to match observations.

Wide and Varied Places

The places that have been involved in uncovering the story of neutron stars are wide and varied. Katia takes us for walk on the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. After that we go to the jungle, in Puerto Rico, to the Arecibo radio telescope. Then we’re off to West Virginia to the Green Bank observatory. Each of the places visited are linked to the people who played critical roles and the list of scientists is huge and their stories are as wide and fascinating as the places the book visits.

The Green Bank radio telescope was one particularly interesting place that Katia visited. The huge telescope is in the pristine forests of West Virginia. The whole area around the telescope does not allow mobile phones and portable radios. It’s amazing that such a place can exist in the hustle and bustle of the US. MeerKAT is another radio telescope but this time in South Africa. It is isolated by geography but with the equally restrictive radio procedures. Katia takes us through her long drive past isolated farms to the unusual location of this radio telescope.

By the end of the book the reader is familiar with the terms pulsar, millisecond pulsar, Fast Radio Bursts and a myriad of other. However, Katia is skilful at explaining what they mean and how the science around them has developed. Overall, the wealth of information in this book about neutron stars belies the simple name as it is a well researched book and a joy to read. The book is a must read for anyone even remotely curious about neutron stars.

Neutron Star
A fictitious neutron star in orbit over New Zealand (graphic by me).