A neutron, together with an electron and a proton, makes up an atom, the tiny particle that is the building block of all matter and everything that is in the universe. These three components of an atom were once thought to be the very basic building blocks of matter, but later discoveries unearthed the existence of even smaller, more fundamental particles such as leptons and quarks.

Neutrons are found at the center or nucleus of an atom. They are electrically neutral, which means they don’t have either a positive or a negative charge. It is believed that if a proton (which is positively charged) and an electron (which is negatively charged) are smashed together, the result would be a charge-less particle that is a neutron. Apart from smashing these particles, neutrons are hard to observe. Because they have no charge means that they do not react to electromagnetic forces, unlike protons and electrons. They therefore cannot be observed using electromagnetic manipulation.

Experiments on sub-atomic particles in a laboratory, like smashing them up, can be really costly and complicated. A cheaper but effective alternative that allows scientists to study neutrons is to look at the stars and examine their behavior. It has been found that a specific celestial body called a neutron star consists mostly of neutrons. A neutron star is produced from an explosion of a supernova, where protons and electrons are smashed together and combined to become neutrons. Neutron stars are incredibly dense because their whole mass is packed within a very little space. They are believed to be at the end stage of a star’s life cycle.