Saturday, April 2, 2022

Wolf 359

Wolf 359 is a faint red dwarf of thirteenth apparent magnitude that can be seen in the direction of the constellation Leo via a large telescope. This star would not seem anything interesting, but the fact of being located just 7.3 light years away from Earth and being surrounded by two extrasolar planets have made the protagonist of several science fiction works, including Star Trek.

Wolf 359 has a mass equal to just 9% of the solar mass, a diameter of only 0.16 solar diameters and a brightness equal to 1% of the solar. You think that if it were placed in the center of the Wolf 359 Solar System it would only be ten times brighter than the full Moon. In addition, Wolf 359 is a flare star, characterized by intense and sudden increases in brightness caused by an increase in magnetic activity in the photosphere. Exoplanets located in a star system like this can hardly be habitable. As if that were not enough, neither of the two discovered planets is in orbit within the habitable belt. The first of the two, of mass similar to the Earth, is in fact too close to the star, while the second, on a very external orbit, is probably a gas giant.

Credit: Pablo Carlos Budassi.

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