What holds the nucleus together? The forces operating inside the atomic nucleus remain mysterious after decades of research, especially at the highest densities where new forms of matter may appear. We can use macroscopic properties of neutron stars to study microscopic interactions between tightly packed nucleons, which support them against gravitational collapse. Neutron stars with a total mass significantly higher than two Solar masses cannot contain de-confined quarks, and thus have profound implications for nuclear physics. Furthermore, the maximum neutron star mass has important consequences for the fate of supernovae and neutron star mergers. The astrophysics field of compact binary millisecond pulsars is thriving. This growing class of rapidly spinning neutron stars also known as "spiders" constitutes the most promising place to find extremely massive neutron stars. In addition, spiders offer a unique probe of the pulsar's innermost wind and a nearby site for particle acceleration. The past years have seen exciting developments and discoveries in this field, in which I have been closely involved. As a result, a new way has opened up to study fundamental astrophysical phenomena from the vicinity of neutron stars. The purpose of this project A Spider Revolution is to find the most massive neutron stars and to understand the interaction between accretion flows, pulsar winds and neutron star magnetospheres. ASPIRE will uncover a hidden population of millisecond pulsars which, besides astrophysics, will have an impact on nuclear and astro-particle physics. I will also investigate nearby spiders as potential sources of cosmic rays and astrophysical neutrinos, placing unprecedented constraints on particle acceleration in relativistic pulsar wind shocks. As leader in the field, and having recently developed a new method to measure pulsar masses, I am in an excellent position to achieve these ambitious goals.
Plan Estatal de Investigación Científica y Técnica y de Innovación 2017-2020
Programa Estatal de I+D+i Orientada a los Retos de la Sociedad