The image shows the changes in light output over time of pulsating carbon white dwarf star.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of K. Williams/ T. Jones/ McDonald Obs
Astronomers Discover New Type of Pulsating White Dwarf Star
News story originally written on May 1, 2008
Most of the stars in the universe, including the Sun, will end their lives as white dwarf stars. Astronomers have discovered a new type of white dwarf star, which is called a "pulsating carbon white dwarf."
A white dwarf star is what is leftover of a Sun-like star that has burned all of the fuel in its core. Recently, astronomers discovered a third type of white dwarf star. These "hot carbon white dwarfs" don't have their hydrogen and helium shells anymore, so their carbon layer is exposed. Since this discovery, astronomers have been searching to see if this new type of white dwarf star pulsates. They are interested in pulsating stars because the changes in the light a star puts out can show what goes on in its interior. This is similar to the way geologists study seismic waves from earthquakes to understand what goes on in Earth's interior. In fact, this type of star-study is called "asteroseismology."
So, astronomers names Michael H. Montgomery and Kurtis A. Williams began to study carbon white dwarfs with a telescope, looking for ones that pulsate. One of their graduate students, Steve DeGennaro, discovered a star about 800 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major that fits the bill.
Studying these stars will shed light on how the surface of white dwarf stars lose their hydrogen and helium layers.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
When stars like our own sun die they will become White Dwarfs. As a star like our sun is running out of fuel in its center it grows into a red giant. This will happen to our sun in 5 Billion years. The...more
The ground underfoot might seem like it's not going anywhere but it is. It moves. If it moves all of a sudden the ground shakes. That's an earthquake! Earthquakes happen as pieces of the Earth's crust...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like while the tree was alive. This means that tree rings can tell us about climates of the past. Two...more