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GAIA REVEALS HOW SUN-LIKE STARS TURN SOLID AFTER THEIR DEMISE

27 Jan 2019, 05:00 UTC
GAIA REVEALS HOW SUN-LIKE STARS TURN SOLID AFTER THEIR DEMISE
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Data captured by ESA’s galaxy-mapping spacecraft Gaia has revealed for the first time how white dwarfs, the dead remnants of stars like our Sun, turn into solid spheres as the hot gas inside them cools down. This process of solidification, or crystallisation, of the material inside white dwarfs was predicted 50 years ago but it wasn’t until the arrival of Gaia that astronomers were able to observe enough of these objects with such a precision to see the pattern revealing this process. “Previously, we had distances for only a few hundreds of white dwarfs and many of them were in clusters, where they all have the same age,” says Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay from the University of Warwick, UK, lead author of the paper describing the results, published today in Nature. “With Gaia we now have the distance, brightness and colour of hundreds of thousands of white dwarfs for a sizeable sample in the outer disc of the Milky Way, spanning a range of initial masses and all kinds of ages.” It is in the precise estimate of the distance to these stars that Gaia makes a breakthrough, allowing astronomers to gauge their true brightness with unprecedented accuracy. White dwarfs are the ...

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