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We May Have Misjudged the Vitality of White Dwarfs

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White Dwarfs Might Be Less Dead Than We Thought

At the end of their lives, most stars including the Sun will become white dwarfs. After a red dwarf or sun-like star consumes all the hydrogen and helium it can, the remains of the star will collapse under its own weight, shrinking ever more until the quantum pressure of electrons becomes strong enough to counter gravity. White dwarfs begin their days as brilliantly hot embers of degenerate matter and grow ever cooler and dimmer as they age.

Because a white dwarf doesn’t produce new energy through nuclear fusion, it has only remnant thermal energy to keep it warm. This fact allows astronomers to determine the age of a white dwarf by its temperature. Basically, the cooler a white dwarf is, the older it is. But there seem to be some exceptions. Astronomers have other ways to estimate the age of a white dwarf, such as comparing it to the age of the cluster of stars it’s in. They’ve found that some white dwarfs are a bit hotter than they should be. A new study may help explain why.

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Schematic representation of the two scenarios of white dwarf crystallization. Credit: Sihao Cheng and Simon Blouin

It has to do with the way the interior of a white dwarf cools over time. In its early days, a white dwarf has an exterior solid crust with a fluid interior, similar to the structure of a planet such as Earth. The interior is a hot fluid of degenerate matter, but as it cools it can crystalize. It’s generally been thought that crystalization initiates at the core where pressure is greatest, and then expands outward as the star cools. This means that white dwarfs experience a fast initial cooling, then a crystalization period where the surface temperature is fairly constant, and finally a final cooling period after core crystalization is over.

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This new study shows how crystalization can occur in a different way. Rather than bulk crystalization, small crystals can form within the warm interior. Just as ice crystals are less dense than the surrounding water, so are these initial crystals of white dwarf matter. And like ice particles, these crystals float upward from the core. As a result, the crystals form an insulating layer around the still-hot core. In this model, white dwarfs don’t cool as much initially, and they stay warmer longer. This means that some white dwarfs can appear much warmer and younger than they actually are, so astronomers can’t simply use temperature as an age measure for all white dwarfs.

It isn’t entirely clear why some white dwarfs crystalize from the core outward and why some form a crystal layer, but it is likely due to differences in composition. One clue comes from the fact that most white dwarfs form from a single old star, while other white dwarfs are formed during stellar mergers. The merger of white dwarfs could have a more diverse composition that encourages the formation of a crystal layer.

Reference: Bédard, Antoine, et al. “Buoyant crystals halt the cooling of white dwarf stars.Nature (2024).

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Watch Caitlin Clark in action: How to Watch Today’s Iowa vs. UConn Women’s March Madness Final Four Basketball Game

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March Madness 2024 has been full of surprises, but one thing that’s not surprising is the matchup between college basketball stars Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers in the women’s Final Four. The UConn vs. Iowa game promises to be an intense matchup between two top-tier programs whose stars have become the face of the game.

The UConn vs. Iowa Final Four game is a must-watch basketball event. The game is scheduled to take place on Friday, April 5, 2024 at 9:30 p.m. ET (6:30 p.m. PT) and will be broadcast on ESPN. The winner of this game will advance to the women’s NCAA national championship game on Sunday, April 7, 2024.

If you’re looking to watch the UConn vs. Iowa game without cable, there are several streaming options available. Hulu + Live TV offers a bundle with ESPN+ that allows you to stream every March Madness game. FuboTV is another streaming service focused on sports that offers access to all March Madness games. Sling TV is a cost-effective option that includes ESPN and ABC, where you can watch the game live.

For fans interested in watching the women’s national championship game, a digital HDTV antenna is a great option to watch ABC-aired coverage without any monthly charges. Additionally, ESPN+ offers exclusive live events, original shows, and top-tier series that can be accessed through the ESPN app for a monthly subscription fee.

Caitlin Clark has had an impressive journey towards the NCAA national championship game, showcasing her skills and becoming the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader. Nike’s “This was never a long shot” T-shirt is a great way to celebrate her achievements and savor the moment in her last season playing college ball.

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Overall, the UConn vs. Iowa Final Four game is expected to be a thrilling matchup between two talented teams, with Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers leading the charge. Be sure to tune in to witness the excitement of March Madness and support these incredible athletes on their journey to the championship.

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