Researchers measure the mass of a single white dwarf for the first time #Space

Of the trillions of stars scattered throughout the universe, one of the most common are the white dwarfs, which are the dormant, burned out, and leftover cores of low/medium mass stars. For decades, scientists have only measured the masses of white dwarfs within binary star systems. While these measurements provide insight into the true masses of white dwarfs, the measurements typically feature high amounts of uncertainty.

With help from the joint NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope, a team of researchers directly measured the mass of an isolated white dwarf outside of a binary star system. Found to be approximately 56% of the Sun’s mass, the team’s results agree with previous white dwarf mass predictions and provide insight into the evolutionary processes of dead stars.

To measure the mass of the white dwarf, named LAWD 37, the team utilized gravitational microlensing — a natural phenomenon in which the gravity from a cosmic object in front of another warps the light from the background object. In the case of LAWD 37’s observations, light from a star behind the white dwarf was slightly warped as the white dwarf passed in front of the star, seemingly moving the background star to a different location in the sky.

Precisely measuring the amount of light deflected by LAWD 37’s gravity allowed the team to determine the mass of the white dwarf.

Read more on NASA Spaceflight.


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