First Direct Evidence Stars Like Our Sun Turn Into Crystals — SNAPSHOT

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

Currently, our Sun is a yellow dwarf star.

"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". The observations that Gaia beamed back revealed an unusually high number of stars whose colors and luminosities were not indicative of a single mass or age, otherwise known as a pile-up. 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.

As it cools, it'll form a crystal white dwarf, with a crystal cores of metallic oxygen and carbon - and there are millions of similar crystals out there.

These observations proved a theory that dates back 50 years according to Dr. Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay, from the University of Warwick's Department of Physics. In the process, they uncovered a "pile-up" of stars with colors and luminosities that matched those predicted for crystallized white dwarfs.

"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. As the oxygen and carbon in the star crystallise, they release heat, causing the star to stall its cooling for roughly 2 billion years.

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. As they shrink, the ions are squeezed closer together until they eventually freeze in place to form ordered crystal lattice structures.

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"All white dwarfs [like our Sun] will crystallize at some point in their evolution, although more massive white dwarfs go through the process sooner". 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. As for our Sun, the researcher and his colleagues estimate that it will undergo the crystallization process in around 10 billion years, give or take.

'The sun itself will become a crystal white dwarf in about 10 billion years'.

"Not only do we have evidence of heat release upon solidification, but considerably more energy release is needed to explain the observations", Tremblay said.

Understanding the gravitational energy release of dying stars and how it slows their cooling could help us determine the age of other stars.

"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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