Sometimes, stellar evolution happens on more human timescales—tens to hundreds of years rather than millions or billions.
Over the past decade the study of planetary debris at white dwarfs has become an increasingly exciting area. Observations of this debris have allowed us to make unique discoveries about the chemical composition of extrasolar rocky planets, as well as revealing the endpoints of the evolution of planetary systems very similar to our own…
This white dwarf is surrounded by a debris disk. What formed the disk, and what’s destroying it now?
Astronomers hope to get lucky and discover the first evidence of plate tectonics on a planet besides Earth: remnants of continental crust in the rocky material that pollutes some white dwarfs.
One of nature’s best clocks is a millisecond pulsar. These exotic stellar corpses are neutron stars: incredibly dense, rotating hundreds of times per second, and emitting powerful jets or beams of light. This creates a “pulsing” effect, much like a lighthouse.
The progenitors of a special type of cataclysmic variable, AM CVn, and possibly supernovae have been found.