How to cook “nuclear pasta” in three easy steps:
1. Boil one large, dying star until it goes supernova and explodes. (This could take a billion years, so be patient.)
2. Vigorously stir any leftover protons and electrons inside the star’s shriveled core until they merge into a soup of ultradense neutrons. Apply as much gravity as necessary.
3. Scrunch the neutron stew into an airtight sphere the size of Toronto. Cover in a crystalline crust and serve at 1.08 million degrees Fahrenheit (600,000 degrees Celsius).
Voila! You have just made one of the universe’s strangest concoctions — nuclear pasta.
For several years, astrophysicists have noodled with the idea that such a linguini-like tangle of matter might be rippling around inside neutron stars — the relatively small, unbelievably dense stars that form after massive suns collapse under their own gravity.
Just like your nonna’s pasta, nuclear pasta makes great leftovers (it may be pretty much the only matter that can survive in a star after a supernova). Unlike earthly noodles, however, nuclear pasta may be the strongest substance in the universe.