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White dwarfs as tracers of cosmic, galactic, stellar & planetary evolution

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All stars with masses ~< 10M_sun will end their lives as white dwarfs: Earth-sized, burnt-out stellar embers sustained by electron degeneracy. The steep slope of the stellar initial mass function implies that the overwhelming majority of all stars born in the Galaxy will evolve, or already have evolved, into white dwarfs.

The study of these stellar remnants links into a wide range of astrophysical topics, including the pathways towards supernova type Ia, the galactic star formation history, stellar mass loss, and the bulk composition of exo-planets. I will review the enormous progress in this research field that has been driven by large-scale surveys and new state-of-the art instrumentation, and provide an outlook on the scientific potential of ongoing and future projects including Gaia, DESI , SDSS-V, and LSST .

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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