- See under white dwarf.
- a star, approximately the size of the earth, that has undergone gravitational collapse and is in the final stage of evolution for low-mass stars, beginning hot and white and ending cold and dark (black dwarf).
Compare Chandrasekhar limit.
Origin of white dwarf
First recorded in 1920–25
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
- one of a large class of small faint stars of enormous density (on average 10 8 kg/m³) with diameters only about 1 per cent that of the sun, and masses less than the Chandrasekhar limit (about 1.4 solar masses). It is thought to mark the final stage in the evolution of a sun-like star
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Word Origin and History for black dwarf
in astrophysics, a kind of dead and lightless star, 1966.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
- The theoretical celestial object that remains after a white dwarf has used up all of its fuel and cooled off completely to a solid mass of extremely dense, cold carbon. A white dwarf will eventually become a black dwarf unless it has a companion star from which it can take sufficient mass to pass the Chandrasekhar limit and collapse into a neutron star or black hole. No black dwarf has ever been observed. Because the estimated cooling time for a white dwarf is in the trillions of years, it is unlikely that there are many, if any, black dwarfs in our universe, which is only 12 to 18 billion years old. See Note at dwarf star.
- A small, extremely dense star characterized by high temperature and luminosity. A white dwarf is believed to be in its final stage of evolution, having either used up most of its nuclear fuel in its main-sequence stage, or else moved through a giant stage and shed any remaining fuel in its outer layer as a planetary nebula, leaving only a glowing core. Some 10 percent of all stars in the Milky Way are white dwarfs, but despite their intrinsic luminosity, they are so small that none are visible to the naked eye. See Note at dwarf.
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