Smallest star ever discovered by scientists

Sandarbha Desk
Sandarbha Desk

In News

  • The smallest known star in the universe has been discovered recently by scientists.
  • It is smaller than Jupiter (largest planet in our solar system) and just slightly larger than Saturn (6th planet in the solar system) in size.
  • It is likely that the star has Earth-sized planets with liquid water orbiting it.
  • Researchers identified the star called EBLM J0555-57Ab located about 600 light-years away in the Milky Way Galaxy.

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Can stars get any smaller than this one?

  • It is believed that this star is as small as a star can get in order to possess just enough mass to enable the fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium. This process powers stars including our sun, which creates the heat and light that sustains all life on Earth.
  • 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 have instead transformed into a brown dwarf.  Brown dwarfs are objects between the biggest gas giant planets and the smallest stars.
  • Astronomers say it’s unlikely for a star to be smaller than this one because, in order to create the thermonuclear fusion reactions needed for stars to shine, they need a minimum mass.

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  • As mass is directly proportional to the gravitational pull, at the surface of the star, the latter is about 300 times stronger than what is experienced on the Earth.
  • This discovery is 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 star was identified by WASP, a planet-finding experiment run by several universities.
  • It is likely that the star is smaller and colder than many of the gas giant exoplanets that have been identified so far.

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