MessageToEagle.com

Breakthrough Study Models Dying Stars In A Lab

14 February, 2013

Share this story:
Follow us:

MessageToEagle.com - Researchers have successfully recreated the conditions close to the surface of a white dwarf, allowing them to examine what happens in one of the most hostile environments in the galaxy.

A team of scientists has successfully reproduced conditions in one of the most hostile environments in the galaxy, enabling them to find out more about how atoms behave in these extreme settings.

The study modelled conditions near to the surface of a white dwarf star – a stellar remnant comprising the dead embers which are left behind after Sun-like stars have exhausted their fuel. The environment is characterised by very high gravitational forces, very high temperatures, and occasionally very high magnetic fields.


Credits: University of Surrey


These fields are astonishingly powerful, and thought to reach levels a billion times stronger than the Earth’s. Matt Pang, who made the theoretical predictions which underpin the new study work, has described them as so strong that “if a fridge magnet with this strength was sitting in the Science Museum in central London, everyone with a pacemaker would have to move outside the M25.”

More unpleasantly, chemistry around the surface of a white dwarf completely changes, and atoms that did not previously stick together can become bonded, while previously bonded molecules change their size and shape. Extreme environments like this are common in space, but often difficult, or impossible, to reproduce on Earth.

As a result, the new study marks a significant breakthrough in using readily-available materials to model astrophysical phenomena.

The team, led by the University of Surrey, discovered that ordinary silicon crystals of the same type used to make computer chips are so sensitive to the effects of a much weaker magnetic field in a laboratory that they could achieve the same conditions as the strongest magnetic white dwarfs.

The researchers doped phosphorous into silicon, which can be scaled with relative ease to compare its atomic properties with those of hydrogen. They then compared the spectrum of phosphorous patterns under laboratory magnetic fields with those obtained for hydrogen on white dwarf stars.

The results showed that in these conditions, the electron cloud around a hydrogen atom was changed to a variety of patterns, ranging from fans, to shapes resembling highly-elongated, and slightly lumpy, pencils.

“The theory predicting the behaviour of hydrogen atoms in magnetic fields this high has been around for just under a century, but until now, no-one was able to test it right up at the limit seen on white dwarfs. We are looking forward to using the principle to see what happens to molecules, where the theory is almost impossibly hard,” Professor Paul Murdin, from the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, one of the co-authors of the work, said.

The team is now looking for this same effect on other more complicated atoms and molecules in white dwarfs .

“It’s not just about astronomy – there are also practical implications. Learning how to control the shapes of tiny electron clouds in silicon chips is letting us design new kinds of computer chips, called quantum computers, where the transistors contain just one atom,” Ellis Bowyer, a doctoral researcher from Surrey who did the experiments, said.

The full study is available in Nature Communications: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms2466

MessageToEagle.com

See also:
Researchers Have Identified The First "Bone" Of The Milky Way

Follow MessageToEagle.com for the latest news on Facebook and Twitter !

Don't Miss Our Stories! Get Our Daily Email Newsletter

Enter your email address:


Once you have confirmed your email address, you will be subscribed to the newsletter.

Recommend this article:

Teleportation Experiments Continue - Record-Breaking Distance of 143 Kilometers Achieved!

Violent Behavior Of Our Sun - Massive 500,000 Mile Long Filament Observed

First Massive Galaxies Lit Up The Early Universe

Intense Blue Lightning On Saturn Visible From Space In Broad Daylight!

Subscribe To Our Space, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Earth and Xenology News!

Grab the latest RSS feeds right to your reader, desktop or mobile phone.

Subscribe to RSS headline updates from:
Powered by FeedBurner

Go to - MAIN PAGE

Copyright © MessageToEagle.com All rights reserved.
Go to - MAIN PAGE


Get our top stories
Follow MessageToEagle.com

 Subscribe in a reader

Join Us On Facebook!

Other Popular Articles

Universe:


Juno Spacecraft's Critical Mission - To Uncover The Secrets Hidden Beneath Jupiter's Mysterious Clouds

What’s Going On Out There? - NASA's RBSP Spacecraft Will Meet ‘Killer Electrons’ And Other Dangerous Phenomena

New Photos Of Saturn And Its Moon Titan - See A Striking Change Of Colors!

Beautiful and Mysterious Superbubble In The Large Magellanic Cloud Observed By Chandra

WISE Discovers Millions Of Black Holes And 1,000 Extreme Galaxies Called Hot DOGS

Dawn Spacecraft Is Heading Towards Dwarf Planet Ceres To Investigate The Formation Of Our Solar System

Lunar Paradox Problem: Moon Origin In Focus Again!

There Is Sugar In That Star! Life Building Blocks Discovered Around A Sun-Like Star

First Planetary System Orbiting Two Suns Found By Kepler

Astronomers Test Einstein In A New Regime Using Pair of Burnt-Out Stars

The Universe Will Vanish In 100 Billion Years - Says Nobel Prize Winner Brian P. Schmidt

Our Creator Is A Cosmic Computer Programmer - Says JPL Scientist

Mysterious, Huge 'Pigtail' Molecular Cloud Discovered In The Galactic Center

Astronomers See The Infant Universe's Oldest Galaxies Yet!

Star With The Secret Of Eternal Youth

Physicists Challenge Validity Of Big Bang Theory

Space-Time Crystal Computer That Can Outlive Even The Universe Itself!

Dawn Spacecraft Is Heading Towards Dwarf Planet Ceres To Investigate The Formation Of Our Solar System

New Photos Of Saturn And Its Moon Titan - See A Striking Change Of Colors!

What’s Going On Out There? - NASA's RBSP Spacecraft Will Meet ‘Killer Electrons’ And Other Dangerous Phenomena

Mysterious X-Rays From Jupiter Near The Poles

W3Counter