Surveying the distant universe is a daunting task, but spotting stars even a few tens of light-years from our solar system isnt easy either. Most are much less massive than the sun, and many emit less than 1 percent as much light.
Faint, nearby stars in the southern sky represent an unexplored trove because most surveys have been conducted in the north, notes Todd J. Henry of Georgia State University in Atlanta. At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., last month, Henrys team unveiled 12 previously unknown stars in the southern sky that lie within 33 light-years of Earth.
Eleven of these are extremely low-mass stars called red dwarfs. One is a star just 18 light-years away, making it the 55th closest star to the sun. Three others are locked in a gravitational embrace 24.6 light-years from Earth.