Background: Recent observational data on neutron star masses and radii provide stringent constraints on the equation of state of neutron rich matter [Annu. Rev. Nucl. Part. Sci. 62, 485 (2012)].
Purpose: We aim to develop a nuclear energy density functional that can be simultaneously applied to finite nuclei and neutron stars.
Methods: We use the self-consistent nuclear density functional theory (DFT) with Skyrme energy density functionals and covariance analysis to assess correlations between observables for finite nuclei and neutron stars. In a first step two energy functionals-a high density energy functional giving reasonable neutron properties, and a low density functional fitted to nuclear properties-are matched. In a second step, we optimize a new functional using exactly the same protocol as in earlier studies pertaining to nuclei but now including neutron star data. This allows direct comparisons of performance of the new functional relative to the standard one.
Results: The new functional TOV-min yields results for nuclear bulk properties (energy, rms radius, diffraction radius, and surface thickness) that are of the same quality as those obtained with the established Skyrme functionals, including SV-min. When comparing SV-min and TOV-min, isoscalar nuclear matter indicators vary slightly while isovector properties are changed considerably. We discuss neutron skins, dipole polarizability, separation energies of the heaviest elements, and proton and neutron drip lines. We confirm a correlation between the neutron skin of Pb-208 and the neutron star radius.
Conclusions: We demonstrate that standard energy density functionals optimized to nuclear data do not carry information on the expected maximum neutron star mass, and that predictions can only be made within an extremely broad uncertainty band. For atomic nuclei, the new functional TOV-min performs at least as well as the standard nuclear functionals, but it also reproduces expected neutron star data within assumed error bands. This functional is expected to yield more reliable predictions in the region of very neutron rich heavy nuclei.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published