An international team of astronomers has discovered the smallest ever star to date – a tiny red dwarf only slightly larger than the planet Saturn. The discovery was announced on July 12 at the University of Cambridge. Known as EBLM J0555-57Ab, it sits roughly 600 light-years from Earth. It was discovered using a technique ordinarily used for hunting exoplanets. The findings will be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics as one of the smallest stars to exist in the cosmos.
The red dwarfs are common star-types found in the galaxy. Their small sizes make it difficult to detect. They represent the most interesting stars in the Milky Way since they are believed to be the planetary bodies that have the greatest opportunity to host Earth-sized exoplanets.
The star is also called the “Failed Star” which means it’s not adequate to knock hydrogen atoms together to create helium that powers most of the stars including the Sun. The team that discerned it was basically exploring the planets when they were waiting for them to pass ahead of the stars. In February, the team found seven Earth-sized planets within an isolated small star known as the TRAPPIST system.
Finding stars is sometimes more difficult than finding the planets. The planet-hunting equipment is used to explore the stars when orbiting a large star that hosts them in the binary system. According to astronomers, the newly found tiny star has similar features as those found on TRAPPIST-1 which was recently discovered to be hosting Earth-like worlds planets one of which could probably sustain life.
The new star however, has no planets on it just like the parent star which orbits in lonely surroundings. The small star is not bright enough, and scientists managed to spot it because it went past its companion which it orbits. It was just a coincidence that the scientists spotted the tiny star.
In most cases, the small stars are the best avenues for exploring planets that are similar to the Earth. Since small stars are hard to find, scientists know little about them. Finding EBLM J0555-57Ab could be a significant chance to fill the gap in science.