White dwarf stars observed slowly crystallising and turning into solid spheres

The Sun Will Turn Into a Giant Crystal Ball After It Dies

Astronomers at the University of Warwick used Gaia's observations of hundreds of thousands of stars to prove that white dwarves, or the star corpses left after the red giant phase, crystallize.

"In tens of billions of years from now the universe will be made largely of dense crystal spheres", said Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, who led the work published this week in Nature. "It was predicted fifty years ago that we should observe a pile-up in the number of white dwarfs at certain luminosities and colors due to crystallization and only now this has been observed".

Because the life cycles of white dwarfs are so well understood, astronomers are able to use them as a tool to estimate the age of nearby populations of stars.

White dwarfs are the remnants of dying stars of a size similar to the Sun. If you were keeping track with a thermometer, you would find that the temperature of water stalls at zero degrees Celsius for a bit - the exact time that the H20 molecules are rearranging themselves into the crystal structure of ice.

Tremblay said their studies suggested that white dwarfs stop their cooling by turning from liquid to almost 99 per cent solid over about 1.5 billion years. The core is then formed of a crystallized metallic oxygen interior, with a carbon enhanced mantle.

They found large numbers of the stars showing signs that indicated that they have cooled down - and showed signs they were turning to rock.

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White dwarfs are the remains of medium-sized stars similar to our Sun. They are the rest of the centers of red goliaths after these colossal stars have passed on and shed their external layers and are always cooling as they discharge their accumulated warmth through the span of billions of years.

- We got the first unequivocal evidence that the matter of the white dwarfs gradually kristallizuetsya.

And when the process is complete they become what are known as black dwarfs - cold crystal spheres that are not detectable with our telescopes because they don't emit energy.

'All white dwarfs will crystallise at some point in their evolution, although more massive white dwarfs go through the process sooner. At some time in their evolution, all white dwarfs will crystallize with more massive ones dying faster than the small ones.

Dr Tremblay adds: "Not only do we have evidence of heat release upon solidification, but considerably more energy release is needed to explain the observations".

After this contraction the star can still create energy by fusing helium to create carbon and oxygen, Tremblay said. "This experiment on an ultra-dense matter is something that simply can not be performed in any laboratory on Earth".

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