Why it matters: The process of crystallization, similar to water turning into ice but occurring at far higher temperatures (about 10 million degrees Celsius), slows the cooling of these stars, potentially making them billions of years older than originally thought. Scientists use white dwarfs as markers of time in order to get a better idea of the age of surrounding stars and planets.
What they did: Astronomers from the University of Warwick in the U.K. used observations from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite to examine the luminosities and colors from about 15,000 white dwarf candidates within about 300 light-years of Earth.
“This means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky.”
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