White Dwarfs Observed Turning into Crystals | Astronomy

Katie Ramirez
January 11, 2019

But long after our planet has been ended, the sun will shrink to a cool white dwarf star and then slowly solidify into a massive white crystal, the study says.

Dr Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay from the University of Warwick's Department of Physics, said: "This is the first direct evidence".

About 50 years ago, scientists predicted that the gaseous cores of white dwarfs should crystallise and become solid with the cooling of the hot gases inside them. And because white dwarfs are among our cosmos' oldest stellar objects, with predictable life stages, astronomers often use them as "clocks" to date surrounding groups of stars. Using data from the ESA's Gaia satellite, an worldwide group of researchers claim to have found evidence that supports the theory that when massive white dwarf stars like our brilliant host (the Sun) burn out and die, they solidify into metallic crystals. This is due to a phase transition during their lifecycle similar to water turning into ice, but at higher temperatures. As the oxygen and carbon in the star crystallise, they release heat, causing the star to stall its cooling for roughly 2 billion years.

The analysis revealed a "pile-up" of stars with the the same color and luminosity but with different masses and ages.

White dwarfs are the remains of medium-sized stars similar to our Sun.

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- We got the first unequivocal evidence that the matter of the white dwarfs gradually kristallizuetsya. The star stops dimming and appears much younger (up to two billion years) than its age.

The Sun still has about five billion years before it becomes a white dwarf, and the astronomers estimate that it will take another five billion years after that to eventually cool down to a crystal sphere. More massive stars cool down more rapidly and will reach the temperature at which crystallisation happens in about one billion years.

Scientists trained the Gaia space telescope on 15,000 white dwarf candidates within around 300 light years of Earth.

"Not only do we have evidence of heat release upon solidification, but considerably more energy release is needed to explain the observations", said Tremblay. "This means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky". They believe that the missing energy could be released in the form of gravitational energy, created as carbon is pushed to the surface of the star by falling oxygen that had crystallized earlier in the process. Thanks to the precise measurements that it is capable of, we have understood the interior of white dwarfs in a way that we never expected. "This experiment on an ultra-dense matter is something that simply can not be performed in any laboratory on Earth".

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