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For the first time astronomers have directly observed evidence of white dwarf stars solidifying into giant crystals.

Researchers at the University of Warwick believe our skies are filled with these enormous crystals, according to observations made with the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.

Stars like our own sun which aren’t large enough to collapse into black holes will become white dwarfs once they reach the end of their life-cycle.

At their core these stars are solid and made of oxygen and carbon due to what’s called a phase transition – similar to water turning into ice, only at much higher temperatures.

The discovery, led by Dr Pier-Emmanuel Tremblay and published in the journal Nature, means that white dwarf stars could be potentially billions of years older than previously thought.

Because white dwarf stars are some of the oldest stellar objects in the universe, they offer scientists a good way to estimate the age of neighbouring stars.

The team in Warwick studied 15,000 white dwarf candidates within around 300 light years of Earth and measured their colour and luminosity for clues about their composition.

What they found surprised them.

A black hole
Stars too small to become black holes will become white dwarfs

There was a “pile-up”, or “an excess in the number of stars at specific colours and luminosities that do not correspond to any single mass or age”.

These excess corresponded to a particular time in the evolution in a star in which they are expected to slow their cooling process and thus age more slowly.

Dr Tremblay said: “This is the first direct evidence that white dwarfs crystallise, or transition from liquid to solid.

“It was predicted 50 years ago that we should observe a pile-up in the number of white dwarfs at certain luminosities and colours due to crystallisation and only now this has been observed.

“All white dwarfs will crystallise at some point in their evolution, although more massive white dwarfs go through the process sooner.

“This means that billions of white dwarfs in our galaxy have already completed the process and are essentially crystal spheres in the sky.

“The sun itself will become a crystal white dwarf in about 10 billion years,” added Dr Tremblay, reminding us that these crystals – although a new discovery – are the usual end for stars.

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Lufthansa profit warning brings turbulence for airline shares | Business News



Shares in European airlines have plunged after Lufthansa blamed intense short haul competition for a profit warning.

The German carrier said falling sales at its Eurowings budget arm accounted for much of the woes it was experiencing in Europe, as operators engage in a fare price war.

Rival airlines including easyJet and Ryanair have also come under pressure, as higher fuel costs place margins at risk.

Cabin crew on German budget airline Eurowings
Eurowings operates mainly between Germany and Europe’s top holiday destinations

There have been a string of recent casualties with Monarch, Flybmi, Germania, Air Berlin and Wow collapsing.

Tour operators including TUI and Thomas Cook have also issued profit warnings this year – with the latter company confirming a takeover approach a week ago as the pair also battle falling demand partly linked to Brexit uncertainty.

Shares in Lufthansa were as much as 11% down after it downgraded profit expectations for 2019 by up to €1bn (£891m).

The carrier said that its fuel bill could come in €550m (£490m) above last year’s total, despite the recent dips in world oil costs.

The news proved toxic for its listed competitors.

In the UK, shares in easyJet were 4% lower while British Airways’ parent IAG saw its market value dip by more than 3%.

Ireland-listed Ryanair was also 4% down.

:: Ryanair profits slump 29% as cost pressures mount

Lufthansa said: “Yields in the European short-haul market, in particular in the group’s home markets, Germany and Austria, are affected by sustained overcapacities caused by carriers willing to accept significant losses to expand their market share.

“The group expects the European market to remain challenging at least for the remainder of 2019.”

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Backpacker who was kidnapped and raped on Australian farm used Facebook to raise alarm | World News



A backpacker has told how she sent desperate pleas for help over Facebook after being chained up and sexually abused by a farmer in Australia.

Davine Arckens, from Belgium, waved her right to anonymity to describe her two-day ordeal in February 2017 after Gene Charles Bristow was convicted of her kidnap and rape.

The 24-year-old told 60 Minutes Australia she was lured to a pig shed in Meningie, South Australia, after she placed an advert on the Gumtree website in a bid to find work.

After Bristow demanded to check her body for needle marks to ensure she was not a drug user, Ms Arckens said he lunged on her, pulled her arms behind her back and threatened to shoot her if she did not do what he said.

She said Bristow, 54, used cable ties then chains to bind her wrists and shackle both her legs, then stripped her naked and sexually abused her.

“I was just stuck there and I thought it would take a while for people to notice I was gone or even to find me,” she told 60 Minutes.

“I was like: ‘I’m not getting out of here. This is it. This is where I’m going to die.'”

Ms Arckens spotted small metal hooks for binding wool bales in the shed and used them to loosen the shackles and set herself free.

She used a laptop and WiFi stick hidden in her bag to log onto Facebook and sent desperate messages for help.

Her friend, fellow backpacker Echo Wang, who was in Far North Queensland, picked up Ms Arckens’ Facebook messages and immediately raised the alarm.

Gene Charles Bristow was jailed for at least 12 and a half years. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia
Gene Charles Bristow may be deported to the UK, where he grew up. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia

Describing Ms Wang, Ms Arckens told 60 Minutes: “She’s like a hero for me. She helped me, she was there for me. She took action.”

Ms Arckens said she put her shackles back on and waited for help as detectives used signals from her phone to track her location.

After police appealed to the public for information, she said Bristow dropped her off at a nearby motel before officers raided his farm and arrested him.

He was jailed last month for at least 12-and-a-half years after being found guilty of kidnap and rape, Sky News Australia reported.

Bristow’s son David told 60 Minutes Australia that he was “disgusted” by his father’s actions, adding: “Rot in hell. You get what you deserve.”

Bristow's son David told his father to 'rot in hell'. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia
Bristow’s son David told his father to ‘rot in hell’. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia

Bristow is likely to be deported to the UK, where he grew up, following his sentence, according to reports.

It came as several young backpackers said they had been subjected to rape threats and abuse in Australia amid fears the country’s working holiday visa programme could be exploited.

An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) uncovered widespread mistreatment of those on the scheme, in which travellers aged 18 to 30 agree to work in rural industries in exchange for an extended stay in the country.

British backpacker Frances Fairs told ABC that a hostel owner in a remote part of Victoria, southeastern Australia, threatened to rape her if she refused his advances.

“He called me into his office and was like ‘right here is the deal, you either sleep with me and my girlfriend or I rape you. Pick one’,” she said.

There are fears that more travellers will face abuse and exploitation if they work in isolated parts of Australia for longer periods under plans by the country’s government to lengthen the working visa programme.

Under new rules, the scheme will be extended to allow young backpackers to remain in Australia for a third year if they carry out specified work for six months.

Australia’s department of home affairs told ABC it had established a migrant workers’ task force in an effort to reduce exploitation by unscrupulous employers.

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Chanchal Lahiri: Stuntman feared dead after magic trick in River Ganges goes wrong | World News



A stuntman has been declared missing after he lowered himself into the River Ganges while tied up with rope and steel chains for a magic trick.

Chanchal Lahiri, also known as Wizard Mandrake, was lowered into the river by a crane while his friends, family and police watched from the river bank on Sunday.

Before entering the cage, the 40-year-old reportedly said: “If I can free myself it will be magic, if I cannot it will be tragic.”

Mr Lahiri has not emerged from the river since – sparking a frantic search – and is feared dead.

“We are still searching,” a family member told the AFP news agency.

Caged Indian escape artist Chanchal Lahiri waves to the crowd before being lowered into the Hooghly river in 2002
Caged Indian escape artist Chanchal Lahiri waves to the crowd before being lowered into the Hooghly river in 2002

The Indian escape artist pulled off a similar stunt 21 years ago in the same river by locking himself inside a bulletproof glass box while he was tied with chains.

He was dropped from a bridge and managed to escape within 29 seconds, according to reports.

After he performed the same stunt in 2013, he was assaulted by witnesses who claimed it was fake – accusing Mr Lahiri of exiting the locked cage through a visible door.

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