Physicists at MIT have for the first time calculated the pressure distribution inside a proton. One incredible finding by the researchers is that the core of a proton generates pressures greater than what’s found inside a neutron star. That discovery is so incredible because a neutron star is among the densest known objects in the universe.
MIT notes that a teaspoon of the material a neutron star is made of would weigh about 15 times more than the moon. Despite how dense a neutron star is, MIT says that the proton pressure they have calculated has found that a proton contains even higher pressures.
The highly pressurized core of a neutron is generating pressures at its most intense point higher than are found inside a neutron star. The core of the neutron pushes out from the center of the proton, while the portion of the proton surrounding the core pushes in. The two competing pressures stabilize the overall structure of the proton.
MIT’s physicists found that the high-pressure core of a neutron at its highest point measures 1035 pascals or ten times the pressure inside a neutron star. The team notes that the calculations required to get the pressure number were “hugely computationally demanding,” and the team had to rely on the most powerful supercomputers on Earth for the calculations.
The team spent 18 months running various configurations of quarks and gluons through different supercomputers and then determined the average pressure at each point from the center of the portion to the edge. The team says that confirming their calculations will require a more powerful detector, such as the Electron-Ion Collider, a proposed particle accelerator.