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A quark star is a hypothetical type of compact, exotic star, where extremely high core temperature and pressure has forced nuclear particles to form quark matter, a continuous state of matter consisting of free quarks.

Some massive stars collapse to form neutron stars at the end of their life cycle while others form black holes, both have been observed and explained theoretically over the years. Under the extreme temperatures and pressures inside neutron stars, the neutrons are normally kept apart by a degeneracy pressure, stabilizing the star and hindering further gravitational collapse. However, it is hypothesized that under even more extreme temperature and pressure, the degeneracy pressure of the neutrons is overcome, and the neutrons are forced to merge and dissolve into their constituent quarks, creating an ultra-dense phase of quark matter based on densely packed quarks. In this state, a new equilibrium is supposed to emerge, as a new degeneracy pressure between the quarks, as well as repulsive electromagnetic forces, will occur and hinder total gravitational collapse.

If these ideas are correct, quark stars might occur, and be observable, somewhere in the universe. Theoretically, such a scenario is seen as scientifically plausible, but it has been impossible to prove both observationally and experimentally, because the very extreme conditions needed for stabilizing quark matter cannot be created in any laboratory nor observed directly in nature. The stability of quark matter, and hence the existence of quark stars, is for these reasons among the unsolved problems in physics.

If quark stars can form, then the most likely place to find quark star matter would be inside neutron stars that exceed the internal pressure needed for quark degeneracy – the point at which neutrons break down into a form of dense quark matter. They could also form if a massive star collapses at the end of its life, provided that it is possible for a star to be large enough to collapse beyond a neutron star but not large enough to form a black hole.

If they exist, quark stars would resemble and be easily mistaken for neutron stars: they would form in the death of a massive star in a Type II supernova, be extremely dense and small, and possess a very high gravitational field. They would also lack some features of neutron stars, unless they also contained a shell of neutron matter, because free quarks are not expected to have properties matching degenerate neutron matter. For example, they might be radio-silent, or have atypical sizes, electromagnetic fields, or surface temperatures, compared to neutron stars.


It is theorized that when the neutron-degenerate matter, which makes up neutron stars, is put under sufficient pressure from the star's own gravity or the initial supernova creating it, the individual neutrons break down into their constituent quarks (up quarks and down quarks), forming what is known as quark matter. This conversion might be confined to the neutron star's center or it might transform the entire star, depending on the physical circumstances. Such a star is known as a quark star.


Like other strange/exotic stars, quark stars likely can't live for very long, 1 or 2 million years at most, so what happens when they die? Well, nothing super exiting happens, when they become too massive, it will do one of two things, it will either collapse indefinitely in to a black hole OR it will collapse in to an electroweak star which is an ultra-dense, apple sized object that can fit in your hand, but can hold up to 2 Earth masses.

See Also

Stellar Classes
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