Teachers' Conference: White Dwarfs as Cosmic Laboratories

Coordinators: Matteo Cantiello

Talks for this conference will be delivered remotely.

The vast majority of stars in our galaxy will eventually stop burning nuclear fuel and slowly cool as very dense spheres of gas, with radii of only ~7000 km (similar to Earth's radius). These “white dwarfs” (WDs) are the most common endpoint of stellar evolution. They play a central role in many areas of astrophysics, ranging from the study of exoplanets to thermonuclear supernovae, the type of explosions used to measure the expansion rate of our Universe. Recent observational probes by the Gaia, Kepler, and TESS satellites have gifted the astrophysics community with an incredibly rich dataset that is propelling our understanding of these objects. Old questions have been answered and new puzzles have emerged. How do these objects cool? Are their interiors liquid or solid? What happens when two WDs merge? Which planets survive the metamorphosis of their host stars into WDs? In this conference, we will answer some of these questions and explore ways to bring this exciting new astrophysics to the classroom.

Dr. Barbara Castanheira Endl (Baylor University)
Dr. JJ Hermes (Boston University)
Dr. Mike Montgomery (UT, Austin)
Dr. Ken Shen (UC Berkeley)