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Some of the most extreme conditions in the universe are found in the vicinity of neutron stars. These are the result of supernova explosions of normal stars, with a mass several times greater than that of the Sun packed into a sphere about 10 miles in diameter. The interiors have densities of up to 100 trillion times the density of water, and temperatures of 100 million Kelvin. They have magnetic fields several billion times stronger than the strongest magnetic fields produced in laboratories.
Much of what we know about neutron stars comes from the study of the X-rays that are produced near the neutron star surface and propagate outwards through the dense, strongly magnetized plasma surrounding the neutron star (and subsequently detected by detectors on satellites orbiting the Earth). Dr. Pakey’s research consists of theoretical and numerical studies of the production and propagation of X-rays in a neutron star environment. Due to the complexity of the underlying equations, even simplified models must be studied using the techniques of numerical modeling. Students working with Dr. Pakey will learn some of the astrophysics of neutron stars and relativistic radiative transfer, as well as gain valuable experience in the use of computers in modeling and visualization.