Science

Billions of stars (including the sun) are turning into crystals

Billions of stars (including the sun) are turning into crystals

We believe this is due to the oxygen crystallising first and then sinking to the core, a process similar to sedimentation on a river bed on Earth. Astronomers from the University of Warwick say they've found the first direct evidence that white dwarf stars - the dense, stellar corpses of stars like our sun - can crystallize, or turn from a liquid into a solid.

A research team led by University of Warwick astronomer Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay selected 15,000 white dwarf candidates within around 300 light-years of Earth from observations made by Gaia and analyzed data on the stars' luminosities and colors.

The crystal stars are called "White Dwarf Stars".

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.

As temperatures cool, the white dwarf's liquid begins to solidify. The most massive stars collapse abruptly once they have burned through their fuel, triggering a supernova explosion or gamma-ray burst, and leaving behind a neutron star or black hole.

The Sun might die in 10 billion years' time, and when it does, according to scientists, it will turn into a "crystal ball". That means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky. Over the course of billions of years, the stellar husk continues to bleed heat, until the core finally cools to around 10 million °C. This is the first evidence of crystallization inside white dwarfs, a process that has been predicted in 1968.




Tremblay said that the Gaia satellite provided the team with significant data about the distance, colour and brightness of thousands of white dwarfs sitting in the outer disc of the Milky Way, and covering a range of masses and different ages. The star stops dimming and appears much younger (up to two billion years) than its age.

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

But just as the water in your freezer continues to cool after it releases all its latent energy, white dwarfs eventually resume their cooling as well.

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

"We saw a pile-up of white dwarfs of certain colors and luminosities that were otherwise not linked together in terms of their evolution", said 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". Our sun is also expected to end its life in the same manner, crystallizing like a jewel in about 10 billion years.


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