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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the physical characteristics of degenerate matter and explain how the mass and radius of degenerate stars are related
  • Plot the future evolution of a white dwarf and show how its observable features will change over time
  • Distinguish which stars will become white dwarfs

Let’s begin with those stars whose final mass just before death is less than about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun ( M Sun ). (We will explain why this mass is the crucial dividing line in a moment.) Note that most stars in the universe fall into this category. The number of stars decreases as mass increases; really massive stars are rare (see The Stars: A Celestial Census ). This is similar to the music business where only a few musicians ever become superstars. Furthermore, many stars with an initial mass much greater than 1.4 M Sun will be reduced to that level by the time they die. For example, we now know that stars that start out with masses of at least 8.0 M Sun (and possibly as much as 10 M Sun ) manage to lose enough mass during their lives to fit into this category (an accomplishment anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight would surely envy).

A star in crisis

In the last chapter, we left the life story of a star with a mass like the Sun’s just after it had climbed up to the red-giant region of the H–R diagram for a second time and had shed some of its outer layers to form a planetary nebula. Recall that during this time, the core of the star was undergoing an “energy crisis.” Earlier in its life, during a brief stable period, helium in the core had gotten hot enough to fuse into carbon (and oxygen). But after this helium was exhausted, the star’s core had once more found itself without a source of pressure to balance gravity and so had begun to contract.

This collapse is the final event in the life of the core. Because the star’s mass is relatively low, it cannot push its core temperature high enough to begin another round of fusion (in the same way larger-mass stars can). The core continues to shrink until it reaches a density equal to nearly a million times the density of water! That is 200,000 times greater than the average density of Earth. At this extreme density, a new and different way for matter to behave kicks in and helps the star achieve a final state of equilibrium. In the process, what remains of the star becomes one of the strange white dwarfs that we met in The Stars: A Celestial Census .

Degenerate stars

Because white dwarfs are far denser than any substance on Earth, the matter inside them behaves in a very unusual way—unlike anything we know from everyday experience. At this high density, gravity is incredibly strong and tries to shrink the star still further, but all the electrons resist being pushed closer together and set up a powerful pressure inside the core. This pressure is the result of the fundamental rules that govern the behavior of electrons (the quantum physics you were introduced to in The Sun: A Nuclear Powerhouse ). According to these rules (known to physicists as the Pauli exclusion principle ), which have been verified in studies of atoms in the laboratory, no two electrons can be in the same place at the same time doing the same thing. We specify the place of an electron by its position in space, and we specify what it is doing by its motion and the way it is spinning.

Questions & Answers

what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
how should I make my carrier in astronomy
Ayush Reply
I think that Newton's third law is not appropriate if any also thinks like this please reply me
Ayush
Can you explain your reasoning
Huh
why u think so
joseph
yes Ayush u are right
Yoganshu
I think when we apply force to a object it start moving but , a/c to Newton's third law every action has equal and opposite reaction,so object should also exert equal force on us and it should not move due to balanced force
Ayush
if I am not right then reply me
Ayush
no
Zack
because of friction that opposes that force and help us to move ahead
Manish
but this is not satisfied as third law say another thing
Ayush
you are telling why object moves
Ayush
you have to think a/c to third law
Ayush
its because of its mass
Maya
because it is applying equal and opposite force but also our mass is also less in comparison to the object
Maya
which is why we cant move the object but it can make move us
Maya
manish is too correct in his place because we need to apply force which would overcome the frictional force
Maya
My dear friends, can u plz tell me that among u guys who are in the field of cosmology
Madhav Reply
😢I am not there in cosmology
Samuel
Just A Science Fan.....
Adam
Adam even I am 😥😅😅😂😂
Samuel
I am also not in cosmology but I am just a fan or we can say science and part of NASA is my dream
Yoganshu
yoganshu Arya same here
Samuel
you are from which country
Yoganshu
hi yoganshu
Samuel
India
Samuel
which state
Samuel
I am also from India
Yoganshu
from delhi
Yoganshu
and u...?
Yoganshu
I am from Maharashtra
Samuel
from which state?
Yoganshu
You are a ASTRONOMER ...
Yoganshu
or a scientist..
Yoganshu
or just a member
Yoganshu
What is time...? not about Newton= time is constant..... that all scientists openions n point of view I m knowing. . what can be the Perfect Definition of Time
Madhav Reply
time is what clock reads
Ayush
Who is the best astronomer of India at present time
Gian Reply
Jayant Narlikar, Proponent Of Steady State Cosmology.....
Adam
What is the real colour of sun rays
Gian Reply
white.. so white it becomes violet.. so violet it become ultraviolet
Tom
white and red and yellow
Bianca
Vibgyor
Samuel
the real colour of sunlight is White
Madhav
the Sun's has a variety of waves all throughout the elextromagnetic spectrum.
Jacie
we only see it as a few bc of how some of them get redshifted (? can that term be applied for something so local?) by some particles in our upper atmosphere
Jacie
Vibgyor will be when, the white light will pass through the clouds ( prism ) then Refraction phenomenon leads us to 7 colours splitting from a single colour "White " light
Madhav
so the sun rays r of White colour
Madhav
Taurus in astronomy and horoscope?
Yasser Reply
how to put E=MC2
Gospel Reply
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By "How To Put E=MC2?
Adam
yep
Gospel
Hi guys
Samuel
i mean how NASA came to know the mass and diameters of Stars.how?
Gospel
how did they do using E=MC2
Gospel
thats my questioning
Gospel
that's easy formula's derivation
Madhav
why all planets revolving orbits are nearly in equal inclination?
Kartik Reply
***medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/ask-ethan-82-why-are-the-planets-all-in-the-same-plane-4470245c8743
rishabh
dependent on the mass
Madhav
no
Janak
I think because of the Suns gravity pull ,😕😕
Samuel
Samuel,. it's but obvious
Madhav
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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