Stars Like The Sun Become Giant Crystal Ball When They Die

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"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. This means that the sky really is there are millions of diamond spheres, - said Pier-Emmanuel Direction from Warwick University.

"Using modelling, we infer that this pile-up arises from the release of latent heat as the cores of the white dwarfs crystallize", the researchers wrote in their study which was published on January 9.

The team in Warwick studied 15,000 white dwarf candidates within around 300 light years of Earth and measured their colour and luminosity for clues about their composition.

The heat released during this crystallization process, which lasts several billion years, seemingly slows down the evolution of the white dwarfs: the stars stop dimming and, as a result, appear up to two billion years younger than they actually are.

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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 found large numbers of the stars showing signs that indicated that they have cooled down - and showed signs they were turning to rock. 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.

The astronomers said that their observation provides the first direct evidence that white dwarf stars would solidify into crystal. In any case, when the Sun dies, it will transform into a huge crystal ball, as per a new study.

White-dwarf crystallization is akin to water freezing from liquid to ice. 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.

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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.

That, in turn, has an impact on our understanding of the stellar groupings these white dwarfs are a part of. 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.

"We will now have to develop better crystallisation models to get more accurate estimates of the ages of these systems".

The interior of a "crystal orb" white dwarf. 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. White dwarfs with lower masses, closer to the expected end stage of the Sun, cool in a slower fashion, requiring up to six billion years to turn into dead solid spheres.

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