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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY

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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PODCASTS: Expanding With the Cosmos

Using the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ATC), a 6.5-meter microwave collector in Chile, cosmologists are piecing together the early history of the known universe. In an exclusive American Scientist interview, Arthur Kosowsky—a member of the ATC team and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh—discusses how he is using ATC to reach back in time billions of years to search for gravitational waves that could verify inflation and reveal unprecedented details about how the cosmos was born.

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