Thousands of stars, including the sun, could turn into huge crystals

The Sun Will Turn Into a Giant Crystal Ball After It Dies

"The Universe is just starting to be old enough that some white dwarfs may have reached a room temperature", Tremblay said.

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.

In their research, scientists from the University of Warwick found that a large number of stars have been going through this process.

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. Using data from the ESA's Gaia satellite, an global group of researchers claim to have found evidence that supports the theory that when massive white dwarf stars like our brilliant host (the Sun) burn out and die, they solidify into metallic crystals.

Dr Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay, from the University of Warwick's Department of Physics, said the observations proved a 50-year-old theory. "It was anticipated fifty years back that we should observe a pile-up in the number of white dwarfs at specific radiances and colors because of crystallization and only now this has been observed".

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.

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The crystallization process would dramatically slow the cooling process, theoretically prolonging the life of a star by as much as 2 billion years.

Scientists trained the Gaia space telescope on 15,000 white dwarf candidates within around 300 light years of Earth.

Crystallization is the process by which materials turn into a solid form in which the atoms are organized into a structure known as crystals. (Scooping a spoonful of white dwarf would be like hefting a helicopter in one hand.) Over billions of years, they transition from a liquid to a solid. "This means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky". Models suggest there are millions of solidified white dwarfs spinning throughout the cosmos.

"We saw a pile-up of white dwarfs of certain colors and luminosities that were otherwise not linked together in terms of their evolution", Dr. Tremblay explained. 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. This will push the carbon upwards, and that separation will release gravitational energy.

"It's exciting how scanning stars across the sky and measuring their properties can lead to evidence of plasma phenomena in matter so dense that cannot be tested in the laboratory".

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