Thorne-Zytkow Object
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Basic Information

A Thorne-Zytkow Object or TZO (named for astronomers Kip Thorne and Anna Zytkow) is a hypothetical hybridized pairing of a neutron star inside another star. (Most likey a class-M star such as a red giant or red supergiant, but it's possible other star types could be involved, like a white dwarf.) It's sort of a Russian Nesting Doll of stars.

The two stars may have originally been a pair of ordinary binary stars whose mutual orbit became unstable after one star went supernova (likely an asymmetric supernova, which could push the stars toward each other). Another possible, but likely rarer, explanation is that one might have been rogue star flying along at great speed through the void of space that just happened to get too close to the other.

The smaller, denser, more massive neutron star will likely play havoc on the insides of the red giant it has penetrated. Expect increased radiation, and stronger solar wind or solar storms, coronal mass ejection or the deformation of the red giant into something more like a flattened accretion disc. The combined formation may erupt irregularly like a R Coronae Borealis variable.

The extra heat, pressure, and gravity at the combined center is likely to have an effect on the fusion of hydrogen that typically happens in the larger outer star, changing what isotopes that process generates. They may be producing lithium, calcium, or other heavier elements in large quantities. Thorne-Zytkow Objects are expected to be relatively short-lived as far as stars go.

As more of the larger star is pulled inwards to the neutron star, it could be enough mass to cause the inner to transform into a black hole… which would make the whole thing a lot like the Quasi-stars that are hypothesized to have existed in the early days of the universe.



Game and Story Use

  • The unique brand of fusion happening in a TZO could be producing useful rare isotopes, and/or have properties that make it valuable or a candidate for use as the applied phlebotinum of a setting.
    • Maybe FTL tech requires a fuel that only occurs naturally in and around a TZO.
  • Precursor technology might be found near a TZO, if the collision of the two stars making it were a relatively recent (on the cosmic scale) event that happened about the time the precursors met their end.
    • The PCs may need to risk a rapidly expanding accretion disc of disrupted red giant matter that is in danger of encroaching on the ruins of the Precursors if the players can't outrace it nor properly shield against plasma blasts.
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