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The Question

(Submitted April 06, 2000)

Could you tell me how long a neutron star 'lives'? Different sources are all conflicting.

The Answer

If you're asking how long a neutron star can actually be detected as a pulsar, the answer is that in the most recent catalog of pulsars (pulsars are rotating neutron stars), the oldest ones are more than 10,000,000,000 years old (although the large majority of pulsars is between 100,000 and 300,000,000 years old.

Now we can only date the neutron stars for which we measure a period and a period derivative, which means that there may be a large population of older "silent" neutron stars

I hope this answers your question.

Ilana Harrus for

the "Ask an Astrophysicist" team.

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