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White Dwarf Star Measurements Bring Milky Way into Focus

from the Los Angeles Times (Registration Required)

White dwarf stars are dying stars--burned-out cinders that have exhausted the hydrogen that sustains them. But scientists may soon count on these stellar flameouts to unravel the history of the Milky Way.

In a study published online Wednesday by the journal Nature, astronomer Jason Kalirai described a new technique for calculating the masses and ages of old stars based on the masses of the white dwarfs they have become.

The new information will help researchers better understand the formation of Earth's galaxy. "If we want to assess when components of the Milky Way formed, we need the ages of the stars," said Kalirai, who is based at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

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