Astronomers observe white dwarf star transforming into massive celestial diamond

They believe the process could take roughly a quadrillion years.
Chris Young
Structure of a white dwarf, illustration
Structure of a white dwarf, illustration


A team of astronomers discovered a star that is gradually crystallizing into an enormous diamond.

Scientists believe it is at the beginning of a process that takes roughly a quadrillion years, a report from reveals. As the universe is 13.6 billion years old, no star has ever fully crystallized.

The discovery sheds new light on the evolution of stars as they gradually transform over time.

A white dwarf star transforming into a diamond

The white dwarf star in question, called HD 190412 C, was formed when a Sun-like star burned off the majority of its fuel and then collapsed.

When this occurs, stars composed mainly of metallic oxygen and carbon will typically cool into a white dwarf that then gradually crystallizes into a massive diamond.

This process takes so long that scientists believe no star has fully crystallized yet — estimates suggest it would take a quadrillion years.

Now, a team of researchers believes it has found a star at the early stages of this transformation. HD 190412 C is roughly 104 light-years away from Earth in a quadruple star system called HD 190412.

They posted their findings in the preprint server arXiv, and their paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Accurately measuring the distance of the white dwarf star was vital because the distance determines the brightness of the light coming from the star. To do this, the researchers used data from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission to capture a massive 3D map of stars in the Milky Way.

Simulating the evolution of a crystallizing white dwarf

The team also calculated the star's temperature at approximately 11,420 degrees Fahrenheit (6,300 degrees Celsius), within the range expected of a crystallizing white dwarf.

They also analyzed the composition of HD 190412's neighboring stars, which have not yet collapsed, to determine their metal contents. They also calculated the age of HD 190412 at roughly 4.2 billion years.

Using the Gaia data, the researchers modeled the white dwarf's cooling over time and confirmed it as the first-ever crystallizing white dwarf observed with a known age.

In their paper, the team also suggested other stars similar to HD 190412 in the Milky Way, meaning we may be able to unearth more crystallizing stars that are further along in the process.

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