A team of astronomers recently revealed their discovery of the as yet smallest star ever, which they named EBLM J0555–57Ab, and that is just somewhat bigger than Saturn.
This tiniest star is part of a binary system. It has been, until recently, overshadowed by its larger and brighter parent EBLM J0555–57. Its discovery helps give a sense of just how small a star can actually be.
EBLM J0555–57Ab, this Smallest Star, Overshadowed by its Pair
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom researchers are the ones to discover the smallest star yet. They did so as they were observing EBLM J0555–57, its much larger pair. Initially, the team did not even know that EBLM J0555–57Ab was a star at all. They only established this after detecting it as it passed, in its orbit, in front of the larger star.
Further observations and tests helped attest this space body’s ‘star’ nature. Still, EBLM J0555–57Ab’s extremely diminutive size when compared to other stars means that it just barely qualifies as being one at all.
“Had this star formed with only a slightly lower mass, the fusion reaction of hydrogen in its core could not be sustained, and the star would instead have transformed into a brown dwarf,” states Alexander Boetticher.
He is Cambridge University astronomer and part of the research team. Boetticher and his colleagues point out that this smallest star nonetheless has just enough mass to enable the hydrogen to fusion process at its core.
EBLM J0555–57Ab is situated some 600 light years away from Earth. However, besides its size, the fact that it is very dim also makes it very hard to detect. This star is estimated to be some 2,000 to 3,000 times fainter than the Sun.
Its dimness also combines with to the larger and brighter EBLM J0555–57, which is also quite close by and which turns the smallest’s star detection into a challenge.
The team will continue monitoring EBLM J0555–57Ab, as small stars, although believed to be quite common, are also very hard to spot.
Current study results will be released in an upcoming edition of the Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Image Source: JPL/NASA
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