December 5, 2007—
An odd little star is making some big waves, scientists have announced after studying data from four powerful telescopes.
TVLM513-46546—a dwarf star about 10 percent the size of the sun and only 40 percent as warm—has a surprisingly turbulent magnetic field, as seen in an artist's depiction. There was also an usual "hot spot" over 50 percent of the star's surface (seen partially on the left side of the star).
Scientists had expected stars such as TVLM513-46546—which is located 35 light-years away in the constellation Boötes—to have simple electrodynamics, in part because their small size means they don't form separate layers of material rotating at different speeds.
Such onionlike rotation, along with mysterious waves generated by atmospheric turbulence
, is believed to contribute to the complex magnetic behavior of stars like the sun.
Researchers aren't sure what is responsible for TVLM513-46546's oddness, but they speculate it could be unusual activity beneath the star's surface or the presence of an unseen companion star.
The findings will be detailed in a February issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
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Image courtesy Gemini Observatory/Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital Animation