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STScI Public Lecture Series

White Dwarfs and Stellar Atmospheres

Presented by: Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay (Space Telescope Science Institute)
Category: Education and Outreach   Duration: 1 hour   Broadcast date: February 04, 2014
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White dwarfs are stellar remnants - the end stage in the life of a low mass star. Some of the closest, such as Sirius B and Procyon B, are companions to much brighter stars, and have a fascinating history since their discovery in the 18th and 19th centuries. The early research on white dwarfs is linked to breakthroughs in telescope construction and the formulation of quantum mechanics. More recently, exploding white dwarfs (type Ia supernovae) have provided evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. In the last few years, our team has built 3D simulations of white dwarf atmospheres, uncovering the first resolved view of their surfaces. These improved models allow us to precisely predict the properties of white dwarfs, which are then used as probes in our study of old Milky Way populations, such as the galactic halo and globular clusters.