First Direct Evidence Stars Like Our Sun Turn Into Crystals — SNAPSHOT

Federico Mansilla
Enero 11, 2019

However, the death of a red dwarf and its subsequent transformation into a white dwarf does not mark the end of its evolutionary journey.

They are the remaining cores of red giants after these huge stars have died and shed their outer layers and are constantly cooling as they release their stored up heat over the course of billions of years. 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.

When the transition occurs, the atoms in the super dense interior of the star form into an ordered structure and solidify, in a similar way to how liquid water transitions into ice.

The result is likely a core composed of crystallized oxygen and a mantle dominated by carbon.

These excess corresponded to a particular time in the evolution in a star in which they are expected to slow their cooling process and thus age more slowly.

Crystallization sets in when white dwarfs cool down to ten million degrees Celsius and bigger stars will crystallize faster than smaller ones.

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Data was compiled by the European Space Agency's Gaia and analyzed over a span of five years, looking at approximately 15,000 white dwarfs within close proximity to the Sun, approximately 330 light-years away.

The study, published in the journal Nature, represents the first direct evidence of white dwarfs transitioning from a liquid to a solid state. "It was predicted fifty years ago that we should observe a pile-up in the number of white dwarfs at certain luminosities and colours due to crystallisation and only now this has been observed".

"Not only do we have evidence of heat release upon solidification, but considerably more energy release is needed to explain the observations", Tremblay said. So understanding this crystallization process could bring greater accuracy when scientists assign ages to the stars.

'The sun itself will become a crystal white dwarf in about 10 billion years'.

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

'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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