The Sun Will Turn Into a Giant Crystal Ball After It Dies

White dwarf star in the process of solidifying. Pic University of Warwick  Mark Garlick

White dwarf star in the process of solidifying. Pic University of Warwick Mark Garlick

However, the death of a red dwarf and its subsequent transformation into a white dwarf does not mark the end of its evolutionary journey.

You may have heard that billions of years down the road the sun will swell to a ravenous red giant star that will eventually swallow Earth.

The crystal spheres are made of carbon and oxygen under such high density their crystal structure will make them appear to be like a metal - although it is possible that diamonds may also form as the star cools.

The crystallization process would dramatically slow the cooling process, theoretically prolonging the life of a star by as much as 2 billion years. Fifty years ago, it was predicted that the onset of this transition would be accompanied by the release of a huge amount of latentheat that had previously been stored within the stellar body.

Dr Tremblay said: 'This is the first direct evidence that white dwarfs crystallise, or transition from liquid to solid. And because white dwarfs are among our cosmos' oldest stellar objects, with predictable life stages, astronomers often use them as "clocks" to date surrounding groups of stars.

'The sun itself will become a crystal white dwarf in about 10 billion years'.

Crystallization sets in when white dwarfs cool down to ten million degrees Celsius and bigger stars will crystallize faster than smaller ones. "It was predicted 50 years ago that we should observe a pileup in the number of white dwarfs at certain luminosities and colors due to crystallization, and only now this has been observed".

Data was compiled by the European Space Agency's Gaia and analyzed over a span of five years, looking at approximately 15,000 white dwarfs within close proximity to the Sun, approximately 330 light-years away.

There was a "pile-up", or "an excess in the number of stars at specific colours and luminosities that do not correspond to any single mass or age".

According to the authors of the new paper, the release of heat energy alone would not be enough to account for their observations. They believe that the missing energy could be released in the form of gravitational energy, created as carbon is pushed to the surface of the star by falling oxygen that had crystallized earlier in the process.

'All white dwarfs will crystallise at some point in their evolution, although more massive white dwarfs go through the process sooner.