video 25-August-2019 00:47:00

The motions of 230 000 white dwarfs

16 May 2019

All-sky animation showing the position, brightness and motions of some 230 000 white dwarfs discovered with ESA's Gaia satellite.

The video starts by showing the position in the sky of millions of stars based on data from the second Gaia data release (the stars have been selected from the catalogue choosing the ones with the most accurate distance determinations). For a subset of nearby stars, also data from Gaia's predecessor, the Hipparcos satellite, are included.

After 20 seconds, all stars disappear but white dwarfs – the remnants left behind when medium-sized stars like our Sun reach the end of their lives. For the sake of illustration, the brightness of the white dwarfs has been enhanced by a factor of about 160 000.

Finally, the video shows the way these stars will move across the sky during the next 500 000 years, based on their true velocity across the sky, or proper motions, measured by Gaia.

Prior to the second Gaia data release, made public in 2018, only about 30 000 white dwarfs had been discovered. Now, thanks to the game-changing second batch of data from Gaia, 486 641 white dwarf candidates have been detected, with 260 000 of these being high-confidence candidates, as reported in a catalogue compiled by Nicola Pietro Gentile Fusillo and collaborators. Discovering more of these mysterious objects enables us to gain better knowledge of their properties, improving our understanding of how they fit into the overall picture of stellar evolution.

Click here for an all-sky image of Gaia's white dwarfs.

More information: Shedding light on white dwarfs – the future of stars like our Sun

Acknowledgement: Gaia Sky; S. Jordan / T. Sagristà, Astronomisches Rechen-Institut, Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg, Germany


Last Update: 16 May 2019

For further information please contact: SciTech.editorial@esa.int

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