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Matrix Software > Learng Astrology > Astrophysical Directions > Galactic Objects > White Dwarfs

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Back to Galactic Objects   |   Back to Astrophysical Direction 

White Dwarfs

White dwarfs are sub-luminous and super-dense stars. A white-dwarf results when the thermonuclear reactions are exhausted in the stellar core. Not all stars become white-dwarfs (see Stellar Evolution). Only stars of less than 14 solar masses go the route of the white-dwarf. A typical white dwarf would have shed a large fraction of its mass into space perhaps in the nova or supernova process. With the exhaustion of the thermonuclear radiation, the gravitational forces cause the star to contract until the atoms have been stripped of their orbital electrons, due to the high internal pressure. The electrons, themselves, still exert an outward pressure and the star resists further, and a stable state results.

Weak nuclear reactions and the gravitational energy of contraction continue to furnish energy to keep the white dwarf feebly shining. White dwarfs have been known to astronomers for many years and are so common that it was believed that all dying stars somehow manage to eject enough material to become white dwarfs. White-dwarfs cool off and become, in time, black dwarfs., It is hard enough to see the dim white-dwarfs and no black-dwarfs have ever been found. White dwarfs occur in the lower left-hand corner of the Hertzspring-Russell Diagram (which see) or are, in other words, hot and dim.


Copyright (c) 1997-99 Michael Erlewine


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