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Billions of white dwarf stars are crystallising, say astronomers

13 January 2019
Billions of white dwarf stars are crystallising, say astronomers

Prior to crystallization, atoms are thought to be packed so tightly in the core of a white dwarf that their electrons become unbound, leaving a conducting electron gas and positively charged nuclei in a fluid form. This means that the sky really is there are millions of diamond spheres, - said Pier-Emmanuel Direction from Warwick University.

The sun will turn into a "crystal ball" - in 10 billion years' time when it dies, scientists have found.

Astronomers chose 15,000 white dwarf candidates within around 300 light years of Earth from perceptions made by the Gaia satellite and broke down information on the stars' luminosities and colors. The process has already been completed by billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy, and in about 10 billion years the Sun will follow as well.

Years after our star's fusion has faded away and it would have cooled down, the Sun would become a solid crystal after its death, joining the billion of such space bodies, scattered all over the Universe.

They distinguished a heap up, an excess in the number of stars at explicit colors and luminosities that don't compare to any single mass or age. These data revealed an odd "pileup" - an overabundance of white dwarfs with certain colors and brightnesses that can not be explained by the objects' ages or masses. Dr. Trembley mentioned that no other direct evidence has ever been discovered that white dwarfs crystallize ( the process of turning solid from liquid).

Scientists had predicted five decades ago that as white dwarf stars cool down, they would solidify, or crystallise, but no one knew how much heat would be released in this process or even whether solidification could be proved or observed.

The crystallization of white dwarfs is similar to how water turns into ice only that the cosmic process involve higher temperatures. Before it begins to solidify and harden gradually, the sun will turn into a red giant, and from that moment it will begin to shrink down and turn into a white dwarf. As it cools over time, the core transforms into an solid crystal. Before Gaia we had 100-200 white dwarfs with precise distances and luminosities - and now we have 200,000.

Have you got "space" for more out-of-this-world trivia? The astronomers realized that this pile-up was not a distinct population of white dwarfs, but the effect of the cooling and crystallization of the originally hot matter inside the star's core.

Not all white dwarfs crystallize at the same pace.

"With Gaia we now have the distance, brightness and colour of hundreds of thousands of white dwarfs for a sizeable sample in the outer disc of the Milky Way, spanning a range of initial masses and all kinds of ages". Our sun is also expected to end its life in the same manner, crystallizing like a jewel in about 10 billion years.