Cambridge: Smallest-Ever Star Discovered by Astronomers

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Cambridge: Smallest-Ever Star Discovered by Astronomers

Postby bystander » Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:58 pm

Cambridge: Smallest-Ever Star Discovered by Astronomers
Cambridge University | 2017 Jul 11

A star about the size of Saturn – the smallest ever measured – has been identified by astronomers.

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The smallest star yet measured has been discovered by a team of astronomers led by the University of Cambridge. With a size just a sliver larger than that of Saturn, the gravitational pull at its stellar surface is about 300 times stronger than what humans feel on Earth.

The star is likely as small as stars can possibly become, as it has just enough mass to enable the fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium. If it were any smaller, the pressure at the centre of the star would no longer be sufficient to enable this process to take place. Hydrogen fusion is also what powers the Sun, and scientists are attempting to replicate it as a powerful energy source here on Earth.

These very small and dim stars are also the best possible candidates for detecting Earth-sized planets which can have liquid water on their surfaces, such as TRAPPIST-1, an ultracool dwarf surrounded by seven temperate Earth-sized worlds.

The newly-measured star, called EBLM J0555-57Ab, is located about 600 light-years away. It is part of a binary system, and was identified as it passed in front of its much larger companion, a method which is usually used to detect planets, not stars. ...

The EBLM Project III. A Saturn-size Low-Mass Star at the Hydrogen-Burning Limit - Alexander von Boetticher et al
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