Any of a class of extremely dense, compact stars thought to be composed mainly of neutrons with a thin outer atmosphere of primarily iron atoms and electrons and protons. Though typically about 12 mi (20 km) in diameter, they have a mass roughly twice the Sun's and thus extremely high densities (about 100 trillion times that of water). Neutron stars have very strong magnetic fields. A solid surface differentiates them from black holes. Below the surface, the pressure is much too high for individual atoms to exist; protons and electrons are compacted together into neutrons. The discovery of pulsars in 1967 provided the first evidence of the existence of neutron stars, predicted in the early 1930s and believed by most investigators to be formed in supernova explosions. See also white dwarf star.
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