Smallest-ever star in universe discovered by scientists
Scientists have discovered the smallest known star in the universe – slightly larger than Saturn in size – which may possibly have Earth-sized planets with liquid water in its orbit.
Researchers from University of Cambridge in the UK identified the star located about six hundred light years away, called EBLM J0555-57Ab as it passed in front of its much larger companion.
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, researchers said. 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, they said.
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 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, researchers said. “Our discovery reveals how small stars can be.
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,” said Alexander Boetticher, Master’s student at University of Cambridge. The star was identified by WASP, a planet-finding experiment run by several universities. EBLM J0555-57Ab was detected when it passed in front of, or transited, its larger parent star, forming what is called an eclipsing stellar binary system