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A white dwarf is a hot, dead, and dense star. This is the last stage in a star’s life before the black dwarf phase. The white light from the dead star comes from the thermal energy it emits.

White Dwarf Make Your Own

White Dwarf Star

At the end of a star’s life, when the outer shells have been been ejected, all that is left is the core. A white dwarf is a hot, dense core of a dead star. Due to its heat, it will glow white for millions or billions of years before becoming a black dwarf. A white dwarf is a dead star, which means there are no nuclear fusion reactions occurring. They do emit light, however they are a lot dimmer than the previous stages in a stars life cycle. The luminosity of white dwarfs comes from the thermal energy it emits.

The term "white dwarf" was first used by Dutch-American Scientist Willem Luyten and refers to their size and color. A white dwarf can typically have a mass half the of that of the sun, but be the size of the earth. This large mass, which is squeezed into small space, results in white dwarfs have a very high density--only neutron stars and black holes are denser.

White dwarves occur at the end of a star’s life when the star has a similar mass to our Sun. Stars that are much bigger than our Sun have a much more dramatic end to their lives. After a supernova, stars will either become a neutron star or a black hole (if they are very massive).

Stages in a Star’s Life Cycle

(a star with a similar mass to our Sun)

  1. Stellar Nebula

  2. Main Sequence Star

  3. Red Giant Star

  4. Planetary nebula

  5. White Dwarf

  6. Black dwarf
Learn more about the stars and other celestial bodies in our Picture Encyclopedia of Astronomy Terms!
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