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According to prevailing theory, relativistic degenerate stars with masses beyond the Chandrasekhar and Oppenheimer–Volkoff (OV) limits cannot achieve hydrostatic equilibrium through either electron or neutron degeneracy pressure and must collapse to form stellar black holes. In such end states, all matter and energy within the Schwarzschild horizon descend into a central singularity. Avoidance of this fate is a hoped-for outcome of the quantization of gravity, an as-yet incomplete undertaking. Recent studies, however, suggest the possibility that known quantum processes may intervene to arrest complete collapse, thereby leading to equilibrium states of macroscopic size and finite density. I describe here one such process which entails pairing (or other even-numbered association) of neutrons (or constituent quarks in the event of nucleon disruption) to form a condensate of composite bosons in equilibrium with a core of degenerate fermions. This process is analogous to, but not identical with, the formation of hadron Cooper pairs that give rise to neutron superfluidity and proton superconductivity in neutron stars. Fermion condensation to composite bosons in a star otherwise destined to collapse to a black hole facilitates hydrostatic equilibrium in at least two ways: (1) removal of fermions results in a decrease in the Fermi level which stiffens the dependence of degeneracy pressure on fermion density, and (2) phase separation into a fermionic core surrounded by a self-gravitating condensate diminishes the weight which must be balanced by fermion degeneracy pressure. The outcome is neither a black hole nor a neutron star, but a novel end state, a “fermicon star,” with unusual physical properties.


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Foundations of Physics