Thousands of white dwarf stars are turning into crystals

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

It is not possible to observe crystal structures in white dwarf stars directly, but it is possible to see evidence of the crystallisation process, the authors said. So understanding this crystallization process could bring greater accuracy when scientists assign ages to the stars.

White dwarfs are the residual cores of stars whose masses are similar to that of the Sun.

"We have not observed any such objects because they would be too faint".

Billions of years in the future, our dead sun will morph into a giant cosmic jewel, a new study suggests.

It was the luminosities and colors of particular stars that clued Dr. Tremblay's team into their crystallization, which is really just a fantastical-sounding word for the transition from liquid to solid (think water to ice). 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. But I still wouldn't mind skipping the part where our entire planet is swallowed in the hellacious heat of a massive nuclear furnace we once called the sun.

"This is the principal direct evidence that white dwarfs die, or change from liquid to solid", Dr. Dock Emmanuel Tremblay from the University of Warwick's Department of Physics said in an announcement.

According to the team, they were able to find a large number of white dwarfs of specific colours and luminosities.

The researchers analyzed a whopping 15,109 white dwarfs and mapped their luminosities and colors and saw a odd group of data points sticking out.

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Many scientists thought it was likely that white dwarf stars would form crystals as they cooled, but there was disagreement about whether the energy released from the process would be detectable, Tremblay said.

Scientists trained the Gaia space telescope on 15,000 white dwarf candidates within around 300 light years of Earth. The data, shown as black dots, are from the second release of ESA's Gaia satellite.

Half a century ago, theorists predicted that white dwarfs solidify into crystal over time - and the new research has found that this is indeed the case. Image credit: Tremblay et al, doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0791-x.

"We will now have to develop better crystallization models to get more accurate estimates of the ages of these systems".

Not all white dwarfs crystallise at the same pace.

You may have heard that billions of years down the road the sun will swell to a ravenous red giant star that will eventually swallow Earth.

"All white dwarfs will crystallise at some point in their evolution, although more massive white dwarfs go through the process sooner".

'This means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky.

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