PUBLISHED: 10:17, Tue, Mar 3, 2020 | UPDATED: 10:51, Tue, Mar 3, 2020
A unique ultra-massive white dwarf star could be key to understanding the structure of the universe, scientists have announced. The star has “unusually high” levels of carbon in its atmosphere.
This cannot be explained through the normal process of a star’s evolution, according to a new study.
We have a composition that we can't explain through normal stellar evolution
Dr Mark Hollands
The star instead appears to have formed when two white dwarfs merged into each other approximately 1.3 billion years ago.
The white dwarf failed to explode as a supernova, as would normally be expected.
Scientists believe the star, slightly larger than the Sun, could help experts understand how stars merge.
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This marks the first time astronomers have identified a merged white dwarf by using its atmosphere as a clue.
Dr Mark Hollands, from the University of Warwick’s department of physics, and lead author of the study, said: “We have a composition that we can’t explain through normal stellar evolution.
“The only way you can explain it is if it was formed through a merger of two white dwarfs.”
White dwarfs are the remnants of stars that have burnt out all their fuel and shed their outer layers.
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Dubbed WDJ0551+4135, the white dwarf was spotted by astronomers trawling data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia telescope that was launched into space in 2013.