Department of Astronomy & Physics
Time: November 9, 2018 - 3:00 PM
Location: Atrium 101
The lifecycles of most stars in the Universe end in the white dwarf phase, where stars have exhausted their nuclear fuel and fade over time by radiating their stored thermal energy into space. The simplicity of these stars and their straightforward cooling physics provides remarkable insights into their properties, and a link to the evolution of their parent populations. Without knowing the distance, a spectrum of an individual white dwarf can reveal its temperature, surface gravity, mass, cooling age, and luminosity. Through a combination of high-performance space-based imaging and high-throughput ground-based spectroscopy, we've now probed the properties of white dwarfs in a wide range of populations, from the field Milky Way to open and globular clusters spanning a broad range of ages. Interpretation of these data are providing new insights on stellar mass loss, stellar evolutionary time scales, the chronology of the Milky Way, the dynamical evolution of clusters, the initial mass function, and more. In this talk, I'll summarize the latest results from observations of white dwarfs in the Milky Way, and offer some thoughts on how we can best leverage the next generation large ground-based telescopes and JWST to extend this work into new dimensions.