In compact objects (neutron stars and black holes), astronomy confronts fundamental physics.
Neutron stars have central densities between 5 and 10 times the nuclear density. They are the strongest known magnets, with some magnetic fields reaching into the petaGauss range, exceeding the critical limit at which quantum-electrodynamics become inevitable. Black holes are the most compact objects known, and by their very nature represent gravity in the strong-field regime. The fundamental questions regarding compact objects are how they form, and how material behaves in their extreme gravitational, magnetic and radiation fields. The answers to these questions lie in the study of isolated and/or accreting neutron stars, black holes in binary systems, and energetic gamma ray bursts, all areas in which we are, and plan to be, very active.
MSSL’s research into compact objects has established a rich heritage stretching back to the earliest days of high-energy astrophysics, including strong instrumentation roles in a gamut of high-energy facilities. We lead the field in the interpretation of the resulting data through the combination of our observational and theoretical expertise. We established world-leading positions in the areas of X-ray binaries, cataclysmic variables and isolated neutron stars and have built increasingly strong positions in the competitive gamma-ray burst and ultra-luminous X-ray source fields.