Q:

What is a white dwarf star?

A:

Quick Answer

A white dwarf star is the final evolutionary phase of a star, occurring after low- and medium-mass stars lose the necessary mass to support carbon-fusing temperatures. Prior to becoming a white dwarf, a star becomes a red giant.

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Full Answer

While the most massive stars explode as supernovae and become neutron stars at the end of their lives, the majority of stars in the Milky Way galaxy, including the Sun, lack the necessary mass, and instead become red giants and then white dwarfs. When moving from a red giant to a white dwarf, the star sheds its outer layers. A white dwarf is also known as a degenerate dwarf.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is a blue dwarf star?

    A:

    A blue dwarf is a hypothetical star that is created from a red dwarf star that has exhausted most of its hydrogen fuel supply. Red dwarf stars fuse hydrogen very slowly, and they can allow a large amount of their hydrogen to be fused, which means that the creation of a blue dwarf star takes an incredibly long time.

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  • Q:

    How does a white dwarf form?

    A:

    White dwarf stars form when a normal start stops burning and starts to shrink, but this only occurs when the solar mass of the star is between 0.07 and 1.4. The creation of the white dwarf is affected by both gravity and pressure, which work against each other trying to change the size of the star. Gravity wins the battle, which causes the star to shrink by pulling the outer layers inward.

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  • Q:

    What is a type I supernova?

    A:

    Type I supernovae are caused when a white dwarf star sucks material from another star until the white dwarf explodes. The light curve of the exploding star peaks quickly and then dies away. The luminosity of the supernova can reach that of 10 billion suns before it slowly fades.

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  • Q:

    What is a dying star called?

    A:

    A dying star is a called a "red giant." This is a star whose diameter is many times greater than that of the sun (despite the fact that it is cooler). The brightness of a red giant comes from its shell, which is still burning hydrogen.

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