PerspectiveAstronomy

An odd one out

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Science  01 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6281, pp. 37
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf3768

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Summary

Most stars in the universe are in the process of burning hydrogen into helium via nuclear fusion deep inside their cores, which powers their luminosity and provides the thermal pressure that stops them from collapsing under their own weight. Stars end their lives once the nuclear fuel runs out, at which point they will either explode in a supernova, or, much more commonly, shed most of their mass and leave behind a white dwarf. On page 67 of this issue, Kepler et al. (1) announce the identification of a white dwarf called SDSSJ1240+6710 that has an almost pure oxygen atmosphere, diluted only by traces of neon, magnesium, and silicon. This white dwarf challenges the textbook wisdom of single stellar evolution and may provide a link to some of the types of supernovae discovered over the past decade.

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