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The Question

(Submitted November 18, 1997)

Considering that a white dwarf is highly dense, with small radius, and yet very hot, is it possible that inside it could be liquid and not gas? If not please explain degeneracy of a gas, I'm reading Chandrasekhar, and having hard time understanding his book, but I'm fascinated by astronomy, and astrophysics.

The Answer

The section on white dwarfs in the Imagine site (at http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/science/know_l2/dwarfs.html) is useful and describes degenerate pressure in the section 'What's Inside a White Dwarf'. It describes what is basically taking place and also the principles of degenerate pressure (both electron and neutron), which will be the most relevant for understanding Chandrasekhar.

Thanks for your questions.

Eric Christian and J. Allie Cliffe
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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