G. BACON / NASA / ESA / STSCI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY G. BACON / NASA / ESA / STSCI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Sirius binary star system, artwork. Sirius A (lower left, Alpha Canis Majoris), in the constellation Canis Major, is the brightest star in the night sky and only 8.6 light years from Earth. It has a very small, faint companion, Sirius B (small dot at centre right). Sirius B, only 12,000 kilometres in diameter, is a white dwarf star, the collapsed core of a star. Normally, the companion star would be obscured by the brightness of its companion, but the Hubble Space Telescope was used to locate the star (see R620/302), and to measure the gravitational redshift of its light, and hence its mass. Sirius B has a mass 98% of that of our Sun. These results were published in December 2005.
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