How Big Are the Mountains on a Neutron Star?

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The extreme mass of neutron stars leads to enormous gravitational pulls, resulting in nearly perfect spheres. But those imperfections, or mountains, might be able to help us spot more neutron stars in the future! And back on Venus, more ideas emerge regarding the possibility of life-indicating phosphine in it’s atmosphere.

Tags: scishow, scishow space, Space, Science, hank green, astrophysics, astronomy, how big are the mountains on a neutron star, mountain, big, neutron, star, neutron star, physics, computer simulation, dying star, supernova, black hole, proton, electron, sphere, height, gravitational waves, gravity, gravitational, wave, observatory, venus, phosphine, volcano, gas, atmosphere, research, scientist, eruption, phosphorus, sulfuric acid, sulfuric, acid, krakatau, tons

  1. Dismythed & JWA

    Even after watching this episode, millimeter tall “mountains” on neutron stars is still the dumbest thing I ever heard. Should I call imperfections on a baseball “mountains” and “canyons”? For something the size of New York City, it’s ridiculous. It would be better to highlight their solidity. I had no idea neutron stars were solid to begin with.

  2. Unarmed Toaster

    Kinda glad these celestial objects are out of reach to humans. We’ve a habit of poking stuff to figure out how it works. Which is all well and good, until we start throwing rocks at the neutron star just to see what happens.

  3. hellcat1988

    It’s going to be mind blowing when we have the computational and technological ability to use gravitational lensing from galaxies for interferometry like we did to see black holes with existing tech. The guy who figures it out is going to be one hell of a footnote in history.

  4. A aron

    Can someone further explain the perfect spheres not making gravitational waves? That doesn’t make much sense to me. If black hole can make them shouldnt anything? I just want more knowledge

  5. [Moth]

    Ah, someone has been reading The Dragons Egg

  6. MonochromeWench

    Neutron star mountains still probably have orders of magnitude more mass than any mountain on earth.

  7. Happalula

    neutron star pimples?

  8. Merrick Decker

    There’s only one thing more dense than a neutron star…and it’s my Neanderthal-like brain trying to grasp the nuances of astronomical infinities that exist in the universe.

  9. Jacob Ellinger

    I call this the unperturbed soap bubble experiment. I have no idea how you would ever test this but allowing for nothing but the bonds between atoms in the soup bubble to hold it into shape and assuming you could aluminate nearly all outside forces, (vibrations, wind, etc) wouldn’t the soap bubble be smoother as it’s just 100 nm thick and perfectly shaped in every way?

  10. Zac Rintoul

    How do neutron stars even emit radiation if they are solely made of neutrons? Normal electromagnetic radiation is emitted from electrons jumping down to lower electron shells, something they can’t do if there aren’t electrons and protons in the mix.

  11. Nik

    For a neat pair of books on Neutron stars and their mountains look into Robert L. Forward’s “Dragons Egg” and “Starquake” some really great science fiction and some interesting thought on what could be achievable if monopole magnets are possible.

  12. Charles Marshall

    can we get 1440p for sci shows

  13. Ei Dirst

    I’m gonna guess 0.1 mm

  14. Anish aditya Esharyen

    Yeah, we’re done with mars….

  15. David Kelley

    Love the new opening! 👍🏽

  16. Guy Boo

    I love the subtle silliness of the phosphine question. For a brief moment there you were seriously comsidering that Venus couldn’t possibly have enough eruptions to produce *maybe zero* of something.

  17. Daniel Millage

    The only thing I really know about Venus’ atmosphere is that it’s damned thick. I’m boggled by the size of an eruption like that within a soup that thick.

  18. Dmitry Tyshchenko

    It isn’t the violence of explosion that merges protons and electrons. Quite opposite of that it’s merging that causes the explosion.

  19. Keith Reynolds

    What is the difference in time dilation between the very center, and the exterior of say any given neutron star?

  20. eric vulgate

    if a teaspoon of such a thing were somehow removed,
    would it still be that dense or would it expand?

  21. Anik Samiur Rahman

    C’mon Hank, those are mount Everest for Cheelas. Are you insulting them?

  22. Dhruv Jat

    I wouldn’t be worried about stubbing my toe on a mountain while I’m trying to not get my bones crushed into dust from that gravitational pull.

  23. Obi Wan Cannabi

    do you think a neutron star is a solid liquid or crystal? surely it has to be one, i think crystal on the most basic level, its outer shell but then how does that leave things in the core, there must be extra density, but also some fluid motion, would it be like a superfluid or would you get the fault lines of a crystal rippling thru the core as the atoms restructure into a more perfect sphere..

  24. Jeff W

    They’re mm to cm tall. There, saved you 6 minutes.

  25. William Perry

    Wouldn’t a millimeter mountain range weigh millions of tons? That seems significant to me

  26. Tessa T

    There is a diner in Baltimore called Rocket to Venus.

  27. gwugluud 77

    There isn’t life on Venus, don’t even worry.

  28. Odin029

    Neutron star ‘mountains’ are millimeters tall… so it’s like Kansas then?

  29. eyeonus

    Why did you use an Imperial measurement for volume but a metric measurement for mass when describing the density of a neuron star?

  30. Les Ross

    Thank you for the correct pronunciation of Krakatau.

  31. Yazan Alj

    Before watching the video i guess a couple of millimeters

    Edit: I’m a genius where my Nobel prize at

  32. Sonja Johnson

    Nice segue, heh
    but also: Center for Improved HINDSIGHT?

  33. Milky Rinoa

    If this neutron star breaks physics then there are alot of thing that breaking, prolly we just haven’t found the formula yet, still the physics is still there waiting to be found

  34. Maisie Summers

    I read Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward earlier this year. For a book published in 1980, using the science of the time, it was a wonderfully intriguing look at how life on a Neutron Star might exist.

  35. Oahkery

    Can we see black holes’ gravitational ripples (or rather, do they make them at all)? They must be a perfect sphere, right? I know we spot black hole mergers, but what about the black holes themselves?

  36. omanand boora

    Mass of one teaspoon neutron star is so much so what’s about whole neutron star ……… it’s great

  37. Oahkery

    I like the new design for the channel, but man, I wish the text and stuff, like the list of stories for the news episodes, was back on the left side instead of the right. That both seems a more natural place for it and is also where I’m used to seeing it. It seems like a change for no reason.

  38. Thomas Chase

    You can’t build good habits with sociopaths gaslighting you, am I correct?

  39. aperson22222

    1:08 Why do we say “one trillion kilograms” instead of “one quadrillion grams”? Or how about “one billion megagrams” or something?

  40. I want my kids susan

    Be quiet babe, the next chapter in the ongoing saga of phosphene in the atmosphere of Venus just dropped.

  41. Cleife117

    The mountains on neutron stars are huge. Think about it. A mountain looks tall when you look up at it. If you were stood on a neutron star you would be crushed down into a height of an atomic nucleus. That millimetre tall mountain would be enormous when you’re that short.

  42. Gordon Chin

    Could mountains on neutron stars be used as a gravity wave antenna?

  43. Max Kronader

    Re: the phosphorus compounds in the Venusian atmosphere:
    I have noticed that whenever potential evidence of extraterrestrial life is found, almost any potential explanation other than life is seized upon.
    Now, I understand that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but what about Occams Razor? Given the sharing of material among the inner planets via meteor strike ejecta, is it really so unlikely that some extremophiles survived trips between Mars, Earth, and Venus by hitching rides on this material?

  44. Toni Atchison

    There’s an old book, Dragons Egg by Robert L. Forward, that has millimeter high mountains and very tiny inhabitants that the first segment makes me think of.

  45. Black Tim Howard

    I admit I’m not a fan of change in general, but I particularly miss the old layout for the “two bits of news” scishow videos because you could tell right away what they were, and you knew you were only getting half the video’s length of titular content.

    That’s not to say the other stuff is never interesting, but I like to know what I’m getting

  46. Fajar Adi

    Yeah, for dutch peoples a few cm bumps is high enough to be called a mountain.

  47. Badly Drawn Turtle

    One of the graphics is a bit misleading, likely unintentionally. Two neutron stars are shown spiraling into a merger while talking about smooth neutron stars being less detectable, giving the false impression that neutron star mergers would be potentially undetectable because of this, even though neutron star mergers can and have been detected. The problem only arises when trying to detect a neutron star spinning on its own, absent a close orbital partner; this could have been made a bit more clear.

  48. Firstname Lastname

    Hank, I have a better recommendation for conveying the density of neutron star: a football stadium full of neutron star material would weigh about the same as the Earth. At 4.8e+17 kg/m³, it would take about 12,442,000m³ for the same mass as the earth. This would only take a sphere 287.5m wide (or 943ft) or a cube 232m (760ft) on each side.

  49. Robert Klauco

    Man, if you manage to be a fraction of a millimeter on a freaking neutron star, you deserve to be named a MOUNTAIN.


    .. Here’s the case with measurements, when it’s not about B, but b … . (feel the difference)

  51. LMacNeill

    Is it “volcanism,” or “vulcanism?” I always thought it was “vulcanism.”

  52. Robert Colin Shepherd

    I must admit that with stars having energetic and gaseous coronae, it never occurred to me to enter topography into the fold. Mountains, valleys, deserts and canyons were only attributed to geology, when imagined in my head. Never stars.

  53. The Chris Show

    Surface deviation = mountain

    I hate you

  54. craigvdodge

    You can’t stub your toe on a neutron star mountain because of their height, but also because you would be crushed into a thin film.

  55. Alberto J.

    I suggest any sci-fi fans read the book Dragon’s Egg. It features mountains on a neutron star. Very nice read.

  56. Phil Boswell

    I’d love to see how Robert Forward’s book “Dragon’s Egg” stands up to what we’ve learned about neutron stars since it was published…

  57. Moon Cabbage

    Mountain on the moon

  58. Gallium Games

    So the mountains/valleys would be the size of those little lines on your knuckles?

  59. Joseph Donais

    Would not a volcano on Venus need be oh so much more than Krakatau considering atmospheric pressures?

  60. David Campos

    You mean a liquid metallic hydrogen core and a giant neutron should not have any resemblance to each other because it has the word hydrogen in its name?

  61. Cornbreadfed Kirkpatrick

    They’re this big

  62. R WM

    Big fan of SciShow.. but this title is a little lame. If you gonna go science dont be afraid to use science words.

  63. Musical Seizure Guy

    I give big bumps to those tiny bumps 🤣

  64. ot0m0t0

    Let me try to guess…like one atom high?

  65. Eric Schickelgruber aus L

    Thx, I’d rather not.

  66. Navin Israni

    I will send one of scishow tees and gift it to Hank

  67. Andrew Trecartin

    A cm is a pretty HUGE estimate for how large the surface deviation could get on the densest object possible.

  68. G Rosa

    Could a Neutron Star become a black hole if it gained mass?

  69. Allan Sejr Christensen

    If you could move the matter from a neutron star onto a spaceship would it help you manipulate spacetime continuum (or it’s fabric) sow that you would move faster in space. Just like if you are more people on a sled you will travle a longer distance, when there is zero people on the sled. ?

  70. Eric Vosselmans

    the Dutch mountains so to speak

  71. Curtis Lindsey

    Wait… there’s a Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke. Not to knock the sponsor but how can that be a thing?? It’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day!

  72. Ali Syed

    Zits, they should be called zits

  73. AppNasty

    My bad habit is subscribing to things that charge monthly/yearly. Ahhhh, sorry sponser.

  74. jkuhl

    “An episode of explosive volcanism” describes me after eating Taco Bell

  75. Dubsteption 07

    Giant exploding mountains are the least of your problems on Venus

  76. Massimo O'Kissed

    *Center for Advanced **_Hindsight_** ?!*


    mm or nm !! I have to watch

  78. sean wilkinson

    Why call them mountains?

  79. fep_ ptcp

    So Krakatoa is now Krakatau…

  80. LunDruid

    Wasn’t there a study a while back that suggested the surface of Venus was a giant supervolcano? Or has that been determined unlikely/not the case?

  81. Mr Joe

    Must touch the smooth skinned star

  82. c muller

    Perfect spheres only if there’s no rotation… But if I’m not mistaken they rotate very fast because of conservation of angular momentum: the small rotation of the original star becomes ultra fast when it contrats 100000*…

  83. Eckendenker

    Regarding the perfect sphere of a neutron star: How perfect is it compared to the silicon sphere produced to define the kilogram?

  84. Isaac Clarke

    Mate… lightning…

    ThunderF00t pointed it out MONTHS ago…

  85. wackywankavator

    Luckily neutron star deviations are small and humble so you don’t confuse them for mountains. – Shakira, astrophysicist.

  86. New Message

    The Pointer Sisters would have some trouble dancing on one of those, I can tell ya.

  87. Charles Inman

    Stop making a mountain out of a neutron hill

  88. Adam

    Those aren’t mountains… they’re waves

  89. Kadu N

    when a black hole losse mass (hawkings radiation) it became a neutron star? (brazilian here)

  90. Osmosis Jones

    What’s the difference between how heat flows away from heavy bodies how same charges repeal and negative mass

  91. Michael Holst

    Ah yes, neutron stars. They are so dense, only a pound of it weighs over 1000 pounds

  92. Slamz Dunk

    Are there “sunspots” on those?

  93. The Scattered Man

    Also “for extra credit”: calculate how much energy you’d have to expend IF you could climb one of those … call it a 0.1 mm mountains? (Mount EverBump?)
    (i.e. What’s the potential energy difference between “sea level” and 0.1 mm up within that kind of gravity well… I will award “Points” (which you can spend wherever Points are acceptable currency… like maybe in Flatland….(jk)) even if you just do the calculation with Newtonian gravity. (‘cuz I’m really not 100% sure how you do the calculation in General Relativity… and I don’t think the corrections would be TOO extreme … it’s NOT a black hole after all. :) ) )

    [Yeah, sorry, just went into teacher mode. It’s kind of an addiction….]

  94. CephDigital

    Random thought: what would happen if you took a chunk of a neutron star away from the star? Would it start expanding and decaying back into protons and electrons or would it hold its form so you’d have a chunk of neutrons?

    All assuming you live through getting the chunk in the first place and can survive the potential radiation from the chunk.

  95. j k

    THANK YOU for identifying so clearly the artists’ depictions as such! P.S. Small misspelling in the description (where there’s an “it’s” you wanted an “its”).

  96. Leo Staley

    Brady haran interviewed an astrophysist described neutron stars as the smoothest objects in the universe.

  97. Jagan Mohan

    This all creation seems mysterious yet magical.

  98. The Scattered Man

    You know, I’ve wondered about the… umm, “bumps” on a neutron star. I also keep wondering: WHAT COLOR are they really? (I mean, IF you could cool one down.) There are no electron shells, so what wavelengths of light would it / would it not interact with. Anybody know?

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