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Red dwarf

According to the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a red dwarf star is a small and relatively cool star, of the main sequence, either late K or M spectral type. They compromise the vast majority of stars and have a diameter and mass of less than one-third that of the Sun (down to 0.08 solar masses, which are Brown dwarves) and a surface temperature of less than 3,500 K. They emit little light, sometimes as little as 1/10,000th that of the sun. Due to the slow rate at which they burn hydrogen, red dwarves have an enormous estimated lifespan; estimates range from tens of billions up to trillions of years. Red dwarves never initiate helium fusion and so cannot become red giants; the stars slowly contract and heat up until all the hydrogen is consumed. In any event, there has not been sufficient time since the big bang for red dwarfs to evolve off the main sequence. The fact that red dwarfs remain on the main sequence while older stars have moved off the main sequence allows one to date star clusters by finding the mass at which the stars turnoff the main sequence.

Red dwarf stars are believed to be the most common star type in the universe. Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun is a red dwarf, (Type M5, magnitude 11.0) as are twenty of the next thirty nearest.

This is also the title of a popular BBC science-fiction comedy series, see Red Dwarf (television).

See also: Cataclysmic variable star, Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, red giant, Yerkes luminosity classification, stellar evolution, white dwarf