In a first-of-its-kind discovery in nearly a century,NASA scientists have found the third-closest star system to the Sun – located only 6.5 light-years away. The pair of newly found stars is the closest star system discovered since 1916.
Both stars in the new binary system discovered by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) 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 against 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,and a researcher in Penn State’s Center for Exo planets and Habitable Worlds.
“It will be an excellent hunting ground for planets because the system is very close to Earth,which makes it a lot easier to see any planets orbiting either of the brown dwarfs,” Luhman said in a statement.The star system is named “WISE J104915.57-531906” because it was discovered in an infrared map of the entire sky obtained by WISE.
It is only slightly farther away than the second-closest star,Barnard’s star,which was discovered 6 light-years from the Sun in 1916. The closest star system consists of: Alpha Centauri,found to be a neighbour of the Sun in 1839 at 4.4 light-years away,and the fainter Proxima Centauri,discovered in 1917 at 4.2light-years.
“One major goal when proposing WISE was to find the closest stars to the Sun. WISE J1049-5319 is by far the closest star found to date using the WISE data,and the close-up views of this binary system we can get with big telescopes like Gemini and the future James Webb Space Telescope will tell us a lot about the low-mass stars known as brown dwarfs,” Edward (Ned) Wright,the principal investigator for the WISE satellite at University of California,Los Angeles,said.The study will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.