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Life at the end of the line.

Life at the end of the line

When stars like the sun exhaust their nuclear fuel, they end their lives as compact objects known as white dwarfs. Such objects are thought to fade away quietly as they gradually cool over billions of years. But Howard E. Bond of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and his colleagues believe they have found evidence that a white dwarf may suddenly balloon back into a red-giant phase, casting off additional mass, then contract again into a white dwarf.

The evidence is a glowing cloud of gas, roughly the size of our solar system, surrounding a star that has clearly been a white dwarf for a long time because it also sits at the center of a much wider, fainter, older gas shell. The star apparently shed the gas quite recently, suggesting that white-dwarf stars may have some mechanism, not yet identified, by which they lose mass or reignite their nuclear engines for a brief period.
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Title Annotation:white dwarfs may reignite for brief period
Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 21, 1989
Previous Article:Missing by more than a mile.
Next Article:A supernova test of special relativity.

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