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Pherkad Minor

Pherkard, 11 Ursae Minoris

Pherkad is one of the two stars that form the Guardians of the Pole in Ursa Minor, and near it in the sky lies a far less prominent star named Pherkad Minor, a name that translates as the 'lesser calf' (the more prominent Pherkad is sometimes called Pherkad Major to distinguish it from this fainter neighbour). This star is also occasionally known as Pherkard, a name that is, rather confusingly, also sometimes used of the quite separate star Delta Ursae Minoris.

Pherkad Major and Pherkad Minor are not related to one another, except for their apparent proximity in the skies of Earth. At a distance of some 410 light years from the Sun, Pherkad Minor is about eighty light years closer than Pherkad Major. Pherkad Minor appears far less bright in the sky because it is intrinsically less luminous than its more distant giant neighbour. Though it is outshone by Pherkad Major, orange Pherkad Minor is nonetheless a giant star in its own right, and us considerably more luminous than the Sun.

Pherkad Minor is known to have a gas giant in orbit around it, designated 11 Ursae Minoris b (named from the star's Flamsteed number). This is an immensely massive body, more than ten times the mass of Jupiter, pursuing an orbit that carries it around its parent star every 516 days.


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