White dwarfs are faint because they are quite small compared to other stars. Typically, a
white dwarf star has the mass of the sun and the radius of the earth.
Sometimes a white dwarf is part of a double-star (binary) system, and its gravity
attracts material from the other star in the system. When this material hits the surface of
a white dwarf, it may begin nuclear fusion briefly, and the system brightens considerably.
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