WFSJ Book Talk – Neutron Stars: The Quest to Understand the Zombies of the Cosmos with Katia Moskvitch

WHEN: Thursday, Oct 29, at 2pm London / 10am EDT (US) / 7:30pm New Delhi


Enigmatic objects, neutron stars are spinning cores of dead stars. There’s still so much we don’t know about them. But what we do know is mind-blowing. I’ve written a book on neutron stars, aimed at a general audience, high school pupils and university students. The book is different from other books on this topic. In fact, I believe that this is the first popular science book ever written that is not merely on pulsars but on neutron stars in general, uniting astrophysics, particle physics, nuclear physics, astronomy and cosmology. 

I cover the science in a language suitable for a lay audience and describe a very broad variety of fields connected to neutron star research. The book is fast-paced, with engaging, easy to understand quotes from many amazing researchers I interviewed. For example, one chapter deals with planets orbiting dead stars – their discovery and how a planet might even exist around a neutron star. Another chapter talks about the debate on whether the odd signals we’ve registered coming from our Galactic center are from hidden pulsars we can’t see with our current technology or from dark matter. I talk about the 2017 neutron star merger and the detection of gravitational waves, the race to discover the optical counterpart and solving the mystery of formation gold and platinum. Yet another chapter talks about the inside of a neutron star. I describe what we think is likely to happen as we move towards the inner core. I talk about superfluids and the research done on Earth with helium, the neutron ‘soup’ and a possible quark inner core. 

Throughout the book, I also explain the basics. I explain how pulsars emit radio waves as they spin, how we can detect them, what are millisecond pulsars and what are magnetars, how a neutron star could become a black hole, how and why radio pulsars occasionally glitch, and more. Finally, I discuss the recent discovery of fast radio bursts, brief pulses that astronomers are still struggling to explain but that may well be generated by neutron stars. 

Katia Moskvitch is a science writer and an astrophysicist. In the past, she worked as a reporter and editor at WIRED, Nature, BBC and contributed to Scientific American, the Economist, Science and other publications. She loves space and our quest to unlock the mysteries of the Universe. Her latest book, “Neutron Stars: The Quest to Understand the Zombies of the Cosmos” has had stellar reviews, including by a Nobel laureate Joe Taylor.