Behold the Tiniest Star Ever Discovered. Astronomers at the University of Cambridge have discovered a star that’s barely bigger than Saturn, making it the smallest stellar object known to science. The title of this new Astronomy & Physics study pretty much says it all: “A Saturn- size low- mass star at the hydrogen- burning limit.” This tiny star, called EBLM J0. Ab, is about as small as stars can get according to physics, but it’s also one of the densest active stellar objects ever discovered.
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The gravitational pull at the surface of this object is about 3. Earth—which means it has just enough mass to trigger the fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium.
That’s the same fusion reaction that powers our own sun.“Our discovery reveals how small stars can be,” explained Alexander von Boetticher, the lead author of the study, and a Master’s student at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and Institute of Astronomy, in a statement. Albeit a very tiny one.“It might sound incredible, but finding a star can at times be harder than finding a planet.”Prior to the new discovery, the smallest star recorded by scientists was OGLE- TR- 1. Solar System, Jupiter. The smallest theoretic mass for a star is around 0. At 0. 0. 81 solar masses, EBLM J0. Ab is just slightly above this limit, so it’s possible that even smaller stars are still waiting to be discovered.
EBLM J0. 55. 5- 5. Ab is located about 6. Earth, and it’s part of a unique—and rather lopsided—binary system. The tiny star was detected as it passed in front of its much larger companion, which it does every 7.
This detection technique, known as the transit method, is normally used to spot exoplanets. The researchers identified and measured EBLM J0. A using WASP, a planet- hunting initiative run by the Universities of Keele, Warwick, Leicester, and St. Andrews.“This star is smaller, and likely colder, than many of the gas giant exoplanets that have so far been identified,” said von Boetticher. Thankfully, we can find these small stars with planet- hunting equipment, when they orbit a larger host star in a binary system.
It might sound incredible, but finding a star can at times be harder than finding a planet.”EBLM J0. Ab features a mass comparable to TRAPPIST- 1—an ultracool dwarf surrounded by seven temperate Earth- sized worlds.
But the radius of this tiny star is nearly 3. Small stars with masses less than 2.
Sun are likely common in the galaxy, yet we know very little about them because they’re so difficult to detect, owing to their small size and low brightness. But given how plentiful these stars are, and the vast number of exoplanets that likely orbit these objects, it’s imperative that we learn more about them. This new discovery is a step in that direction, and hopefully a sign of future discoveries.