Sun to Become a Crystallized Ball When It Dies, New Study Suggests

Sun to Become a Crystallized Ball When It Dies, New Study Suggests

Astronomers using ESA's galaxy-mapping spacecraft Gaia have discovered the first direct evidence that white dwarfs form crystal cores of metallic oxygen and carbon.

These ultra-dense remnants still emit thermal radiation as they cool, and are visible to astronomers as rather faint objects. To put that in perspective: A mere teaspoon of white-dwarf material would weigh about as much as an elephant, if you could somehow transport the stuff to our planet.

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. The star stops dimming and appears much younger (up to two billion years) than its age. Pileup Tremblay and colleagues looked at Gaia measurements of about 15,000 white dwarf and found a pileup, an excess of white dwarfs whose colors and brightness are not associated with their age or mass. Modeling revealed that this odd pileup was due to the crystallization of the white dwarf's interior that released heat to slow down the cooling of the white dwarfs.

The process is similar to liquid water turning into ice on Earth at zero degrees Celsius, except that the temperature at which this solidification happens in white dwarfs is extremely high - about 10 million degrees Celsius.

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

My assumption scientists build on the analysis of more than 15 thousand white dwarfs, distant from the Earth at a distance of 300 light years.

"All white dwarfs will crystallize at some point in their evolution, although more massive white dwarfs go through the process sooner", Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay from the University of Warwick's Department of Physics in the United Kingdom explained in a statement.

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

Not all white dwarfs crystallize at the same pace. And while they initially radiate enough heat that we can see them in our telescopes, they slowly lose their energy over billions of 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.

Dr. Tremblay included that every single white dwarf will eventually crystallize, implying that "billions of white dwarfs in our universe have officially finished the procedure and are basically crystal spheres in the sky".

There are billions of white dwarves out there that have already gone through this process, astral remnants haunting our galaxy like weird crystal ghosts.

"The sun itself will become a crystal white dwarf in about 10 billion years", added Dr Tremblay, reminding us that these crystals - although a new discovery - are the usual end for stars.

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