Twinkle, twinkle, littlest star: Universe's smallest star discovered

The smallest star ever recorded — one about the size of Saturn — has been discovered by a team of astronomers, according to a study released Tuesday.

With the unwieldy name of EBLM J0555-57Ab, the star is located some 600 light-years away in our Milky Way galaxy.

The star is probably as small as stars can be, astronomers say, since it has just enough mass for the hydrogen fusion process to take place. (This is the process that powers stars like our sun, which creates the heat and light that sustains all life on Earth.)

If the star were any smaller, the pressure at the center of the star would no longer be sufficient enough to enable this process to take place.

“Our discovery reveals how small stars can be,” said Alexander von Boetticher, the lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

"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,” he said.

Brown dwarfs are objects between the biggest gas giant planets and the smallest stars.

“This star is smaller, and likely colder, than many of the gas giant exoplanets that have so far been identified,” said von Boetticher. Exoplanets are planets in other solar systems other than ours.

Another fun fact about the star is that the gravitational pull at its surface is about 300 times stronger than what humans feel on Earth, according to the study.

The study was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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