Research: Thousands of stars turning into crystals

Research: Thousands of stars turning into crystals

A cross-section of a crystallized white dwarf star.

Astronomers have discovered that billions of stars across space are turning into massive crystals.and the sun could be next!

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

"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. "We believe this is due to the oxygen crystallizing first and then sinking to the core, a process similar to sedimentation on a riverbed on Earth". "We realized that this was not a distinct population of white dwarfs, but the effect of the cooling and crystallization predicted 50 years ago".

Smaller stars that don't get to end their lives and go out with a supernova bang eventually peter out to become white dwarfs. 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.

Tremblay said their studies suggested that white dwarfs stop their cooling by turning from liquid to almost 99 per cent solid over about 1.5 billion years.

This diagram, known as Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, combines information about the brightness, color and distance of more than 15,000 white dwarfs within 300 light-years of Earth.

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Five billion years from now, it's said the sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size.

According to the team, they were able to find a large number of white dwarfs of specific colours and luminosities. Analyzing the Gaia data, Tremblay et al found a pile-up of white dwarfs of certain colors and luminosities (highlighted with orange lines) that were otherwise not linked together in terms of their evolution. 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. As it cools over time, the core transforms into an solid crystal. And while they initially radiate enough heat that we can see them in our telescopes, they slowly lose their energy over billions of years.

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.

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.

"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.

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

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