Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Remarkable White Dwarf Star Possibly Coldest, Dimmest Ever Detected

24.06.2014

A team of astronomers has identified possibly the coldest, faintest white dwarf star ever detected. This ancient stellar remnant is so cool that its carbon has crystallized, forming -- in effect -- an Earth-size diamond in space.

“It’s a really remarkable object,” said David Kaplan, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “These things should be out there, but because they are so dim they are very hard to find.”


Artist impression of a white dwarf star in orbit with pulsar PSR J2222-0137. It may be the coolest and dimmest white dwarf ever identified.

Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Kaplan and his colleagues found this stellar gem using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), as well as other observatories.

White dwarfs are the extremely dense end-states of stars like our Sun that have collapsed to form an object approximately the size of the Earth. Composed mostly of carbon and oxygen, white dwarfs slowly cool and fade over billions of years. The object in this new study is likely the same age as the Milky Way, approximately 11 billion years old.

Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars, the superdense remains of massive stars that have exploded as supernovas. As neutron stars spin, lighthouse-like beams of radio waves, streaming from the poles of its powerful magnetic field, sweep through space. When one of these beams sweeps across the Earth, radio telescopes can capture the pulse of radio waves.

The pulsar companion to this white dwarf, dubbed PSR J2222-0137, was the first object in this system to be detected. It was found using the GBT by Jason Boyles, then a graduate student at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

These first observations revealed that the pulsar was spinning more than 30 times each second and was gravitationally bound to a companion star, which was initially identified as either another neutron star or, more likely, an uncommonly cool white dwarf. The two were calculated to orbit each other once every 2.45 days.

The pulsar was then observed over a two-year period with the VLBA by Adam Deller, an astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON). These observations pinpointed its location and distance from the Earth -- approximately 900 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Aquarius. This information was critical in refining the model used to time the arrival of the pulses at the Earth with the GBT.

By applying Einstein's theory of relativity, the researchers studied how the gravity of the companion warped space, causing delays in the radio signal as the pulsar passed behind it. These delayed travel times helped the researchers determine the orientation of their orbit and the individual masses of the two stars. The pulsar has a mass 1.2 times that of the Sun and the companion a mass 1.05 times that of the Sun.

These data strongly indicated that the pulsar companion could not have been a second neutron star; the orbits were too orderly for a second supernova to have taken place.

Knowing its location with such high precision and how bright a white dwarf should appear at that distance, the astronomers believed they should have been able to observe it in optical and infrared light.

Remarkably, neither the Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope in Chile nor the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii was able to detect it.

“Our final image should show us a companion 100 times fainter than any other white dwarf orbiting a neutron star and about 10 times fainter than any known white dwarf, but we don’t see a thing,” said Bart Dunlap, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and one of the team members. “If there’s a white dwarf there, and there almost certainly is, it must be extremely cold.”

The researchers calculated that the white dwarf would be no more than a comparatively cool 3,000 degrees Kelvin (2,700 degrees Celsius). Our Sun at its center is about 5,000 times hotter.

Astronomers believe that such a cool, collapsed star would be largely crystallized carbon, not unlike a diamond. Other such stars have been identified and they are theoretically not that rare, but with a low intrinsic brightness, they can be deucedly difficult to detect. Its fortuitous location in a binary system with a neutron star enabled the team to identify this one.

A paper describing these results is published in the Astrophysical Journal.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

Contacts:

Charles Blue, Public Information Officer
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
+1 434-296-0314; cblue@nrao.edu

Dr. Katy Garmany, Deputy Press Officer
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
+1 520-318-8526; kgarmany@noao.edu

David Kaplan
Asst. Professor
Dept. of Physics, UW-Milwaukee
+1-414-229-4971; kaplan@uwm.edu

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

Charles Blue | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/cold-white-dwarf

Further reports about: Astronomy Astrophysical Observatory White binary system dwarf neutron star spinning waves white dwarfs

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Suzaku, Herschel link a black-hole 'wind' to a galactic gush of star-forming gas
26.03.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Tiny Bio-Robot Is a Germ Suited-Up with Graphene Quantum Dots
25.03.2015 | University of Illinois at Chicago

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Surface-modified nanoparticles endow coatings with combined properties

26.03.2015 | Trade Fair News

Novel sensor system provides continuous smart monitoring of machinery and plant equipment

26.03.2015 | Trade Fair News

Common bacteria on verge of becoming antibiotic-resistant superbugs

26.03.2015 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>