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Beyond Earthly Skies

Smallest Hydrogen-Burning Star Yet Discovered

28 Feb 2013, 08:16 UTC
Smallest Hydrogen-Burning Star Yet Discovered
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COROT is a space telescope and the first of its kind designed to search for transiting extrasolar planets. It detects planets by measuring the slight dimming caused when a planet happens to cross in front of its parent star. Besides discovering extrasolar planets, COROT has discovered what could be the smallest known hydrogen-burning star. C4780 was initially identified as a transiting planet candidate, but follow-up observations reveal that this object is an eclipsing binary system consisting of 2 stars. The primary star is an F-type star while the secondary star is a low mass red dwarf star which whizzes around the primary on a 20.7 day orbit. Each time the red dwarf star passes in front of the primary star, it causes the primary star to dim by a small amount and allows the size of the red dwarf star to be estimated at one-tenth the Sun’s diameter. This makes the red dwarf star similar in size to the planet Jupiter and slightly smaller than the next smallest red dwarf star with a measured diameter.As the red dwarf star orbits the primary F-type star, the gravitational pull from the red dwarf star causes a measurable wobbling of the primary star. ...

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