Thursday, 24 January, 2019

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

White dwarf star in the process of solidifying White dwarf star in the process of solidifying. Credit Dr Mark A. Garlick
Cary Marshall | 11 January, 2019, 21:15

The first direct evidence of white dwarf stars solidifying into crystals has been discovered by astronomers at the University of Warwick, and our skies are filled with them.

"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. Their life cycles are predictable enough for astronomers to use them as an eerily accurate basis for estimating the ages of surrounding stars.

The crystal spheres are made of carbon and oxygen under such high density their crystal structure will make them appear to be like a metal - although it is possible that diamonds may also form as the star cools.

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 same thing is happening in cores of these white dwarf stars except over a much longer time period, the authors said. More massive stars cool down more rapidly and will reach the temperature at which crystallization happens in about one billion years.

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

In this study, the astronomers analysed more than 15 000 stellar remnant candidates within 300 light years of Earth as observed by Gaia and were able to see these crystallising white dwarfs as a rather distinct group.

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If the stars did not crystallise they would cool at a steady rate, going from blue to orange to red and losing brightness along a smooth slope.

Over the next five billion years it will cool down - in the process first expanding into a "red giant" - then shrinking down to a white dwarf and gradually harden and solidify.

"Not only do we have evidence of heat release upon solidification, but considerably more energy release is needed to explain the observations", said Tremblay.

Scientists further reveal that this crystallisation lasts for several billion years, and the heat released during the process slows down the evolution of the white dwarfs.

- We got the first unequivocal evidence that the matter of the white dwarfs gradually kristallizuetsya. "This will push the carbon upwards, and that separation will release gravitational energy". 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.

"We saw a pile-up of white dwarfs of certain colours and luminosities that were otherwise not linked together in terms of their evolution", says Pier-Emmanuel. "This experiment on an ultra-dense matter is something that simply can not be performed in any laboratory on Earth".

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