Heavy nuclei contain many more neutrons than protons. It has long been proposed that the neutrons form a skin on the surface of the heavy nuclei. We recently obtained data using a novel technique (coherent neutral meson photoproduction) which has established the existence of a neutron skin in heavy nuclei with world leading accuracy. This was done for a single nucleus (208Pb). The data provided a big improvement in the constraints on the density dependence of the asymmetry energy of nuclear matter. This has direct implications for the mass-radii relationship in neutron stars, structure of neutron stars and even rules out some proposed cooling mechanisms for heavy neutron stars. The next stage of this experiment has been approved to run in 2012 and will involve measurement of the development of a neutron skin across an isotopic chain of nuclei. The way the neutron skin develops as additional neutrons are added gives further precise information on the energetics of neutron rich matter. The experiment will take place at the MAMI facility in Mainz, Germany (http://www.kph.uni-mainz.de (link is external)).
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