Closest Star System Found in a Century

Posted: March 13, 2013 by Areeb Fazli in Science
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WISE J104915.57-531906 is at the center of the larger image, which was taken by the NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Image credit: NASA/JPL/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has discovered a pair of stars that has taken over the title for the third-closest star system to the sun. The duo is the closest star system discovered since 1916.

Both stars in the new binary system are “brown dwarfs,” which are stars that are too small in mass to ever become hot enough to ignite hydrogen fusion. As a result, they are very cool and dim, resembling a giant planet like Jupiter more than a bright star like the sun.

“The distance to this brown dwarf pair is 6.5 light-years — so close that Earth’s television transmissions from 2006 are now arriving there,” said Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, University Park, Pa., and a researcher in Penn State’s Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds.

 

“It will be an excellent hunting ground for planets because…

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