Thousands of stars turning into crystals

  • Thousands of stars turning into crystals

Thousands of stars turning into crystals

Astronomers have discovered the first direct evidence of white dwarf stars solidifying into giant balls of crystallised elements, a process that was first predicted 50 years ago and defines the ultimate fate of the Sun.

And there are billions of similar sparkling crystal spheres in the Milky Way alone.

The study, published in the journal Nature, represents the first direct evidence of white dwarfs transitioning from a liquid to a solid state. 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. "It was anticipated fifty years back that we should observe a pile-up in the number of white dwarfs at specific radiances and colors because of crystallization and only now this has been observed".

"Before Gaia we had 100-200 white dwarfs with precise distances and luminosities - and now we have 200,000", Tremblay said, giving the satellite the bulk of the credit for the research team's discovery. 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. As a white dwarf, they continue to cool down for billions of years.

For the new study, the researchers looked at Gaia measurements of about 15,000 white dwarfs, all of which lie within 330 light-years of the sun.

They found large numbers of the stars showing signs that indicated that they have cooled down - and showed signs they were turning to rock. The majority of the stars in the Universe, like the Sun, are moderate in size and they fade away silently.

"White dwarfs are traditionally used for age-dating of stellar populations such as clusters of stars, the outer disk, and the halo in our Milky Way", Dr. Tremblay said.

It is assessed that at times these stars have backed off their maturing by as much as 2 billion years, or 15 percent of the age of our galaxy.

"We will now have to develop better crystallisation models to get more accurate estimates of the ages of these systems". Then its core will shrink and the rest of the star will puff up into a relatively short-lived red giant phase which will last about 500 million to a billion years before it contracts once again. And while they initially radiate enough heat that we can see them in our telescopes, they slowly lose their energy over billions of years.

Not all white dwarfs crystallize at the same pace.

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

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