NASA scientists 'weigh' a white dwarf for the first time using a space-time trick predicted by Einstein -
Feb 07, 2023 57 secs
Astronomers have finally weighed an isolated white dwarf, or the shriveled husk of a dead star, using a strange phenomenon predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity decades ago.

The findings confirm astronomers' predictions about how massive white dwarfs can be, and may help explain the strange, ultra-dense matter that makes up these stellar leftovers.

These remnants, known as white dwarfs, are made of degenerate matter, a strange type of ultra-compressed gas scientists are still working to understand.

In their new research, the study authors used positioning data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to predict precisely when LAWD 37 would pass in front of the distant star, allowing the team to prepare for the gravitational lensing event accordingly.

Based on the distant star’s slight movement in the sky, the team calculated that the white dwarf is approximately 56% as massive as the sun, which agrees with existing models and predictions for what’s going on inside these strange stellar remnants.

The team is already observing another white dwarf, LAWD 66, and will continue to watch it until they have enough information to measure its mass in 2024, uncovering yet another piece of the puzzle.

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