On 10 April 2019, the world discovered the first-ever picture of a black hole in stunning detail. While this groundbreaking achievement emerged from a global collaboration, the fruitful knowledge developed under COSTAction NewCompStar helped to shape this titanic research landscape.
In fact, NewCompStar focused on neutron stars, and many similarities exist between these two objects. “Neutron stars like to become black holes,” says Action Chair Professor Luciano Rezzolla of Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, who also played a prominent role in the collaboration that had presented the first-ever image of a black hole. “The two have a lot in common, and so the expertise that was developed and nurtured in NewCompStar also provided fertile ground for this imaging work.”
THE INTERDISCIPLINARY PULL OF NEUTRON STAR RESEARCH
The COST Action NewCompStar – ‘Exploring fundamental physics with compact stars’ (MP1304) – was set up in 2013 to encourage dialogue among astrophysicists, gravitational physicists and nuclear physicists studying these and similar astronomical objects. “Interdisciplinarity can bring in new ideas and apply techniques in fields other than those where they originated,” says Rezzolla.
Four years on, at least 413 scientific papers acknowledge support from the Action, reflecting its contribution to the development of new expertise and methodologies. NewCompStar also led to follow-on COST Action PHAROS, dedicated to the study of neutron stars through the detection of gravitational waves and different types of light. NewCompStar ended in 2017, and the collaborations it enabled are still bearing fruit.
The two have a lot in common, and so the expertise that was developed and nurtured in NewCompStar also provided fertile ground for this imaging work.”Professor Luciano Rezzolla, Professor of Theoretical Relativistic Astrophysics, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
COMPACT OBJECTS, COMMON OBJECTIVE
“People tend to forget that there are different ways of looking at any given topic in science,” Rezzolla observes. NewCompStar made a convincing case for collaboration.
“We came to have workshops involving nearly 200 participants from the three fields, all discovering that there actually is a lot of overlap,” says Rezzolla. The Action, which built on the outcomes of the European Science Foundation programme CompStar, also backed over a hundred research exchanges.
NewCompStar was built on an important extended network, where each node had different skills. This feature permitted studies of neutron stars combining the expertise of the three communities involved (nuclear physics, gravitational physics and astrophysics). In a field that was in crucial need of collaborations and sharing of expertise, NewCompStar facilitated new interactions and helped research to be conducted and expanded.
Young researchers and students held a specific place within the Action, which fostered their involvement in the exchanges and encouraged them to act as strategic links within the network.
Rather than highlighting examples from NewCompStar’s impressive output, Rezzolla underlines collective achievements: a community has been created and a new field – astronuclear physics – is gaining in stature.
“Until recently, the two fields of nuclear physics and astrophysics were seen as very distinct, and scientists felt they were working in either one or the other,” Rezzolla concludes. “Nowadays, they consider themselves as working in nuclear astrophysics. This is particularly true in Europe, and I believe that it is partly due to NewCompStar.”