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Revealing Hidden Pages Of The Alpha Centauri

Updated on May 17, 2020

Stars are an irremovable part of the night sky. All the observable beauty of the night sky is a gift of stars. Some of the stars are bright while some are pale. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, which is followed by Canopus in terms of brightness

What is Alpha Centauri?

The Alpha Centauri is the triple star system that appears as a single star when viewed from the earth. This system ranks third regarding the brightness of the observable stars at night.

The Alpha Centauri consists of three stars which are almost as big as the Sun. These stars are named as Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and the Proxima Centauri. The Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the solar system. T is located at a distance of 4.37 light-years from the sun.

Alpha Centauri A is a star which is 1.1 times the mass of the Sun while Alpha Centauri B is 0.907 times the solar mass. Proxima Centauri, the third star of this star system is a distance of 4.24 light-years from the Sun, it is the closest star to the Sun.

The Observational Records Of Alpha Centauri:

Until the discovery of the telescope in the 17th century, The Alpha Centauri was believed to be a single star. Jean Richaud was the first to divulge the binary nature of Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B in 1689.

Henderson gets the credit of research in the field of parallax of The Alpha Centauri. In 1915, Robert T A Innes discovered the Proxima Centauri. He proved that Proxima Centauri was the part of The Alpha Centauri and was closer to the Sun.

Orbital Properties of The Alpha Centauri:

Orbital properties are enlisted as follows:

  1. The orbital period for Alpha Centauri A and B is 79.91 years.
  2. The closest approach of their orbits is 11.2 astronomical units.
  3. 35.6 astronomical units is the value of the furthest approach.
  4. The distance between Proxima Centauri and Alpha Centauri AB is 13,000 astronomical units.

Discovery of the Proxima Centauri:

At present, the closest star to the solar system is Proxima Centauri. But, tonight if you try to detect this closest star with naked eyes, you may get disappointed. A telescope with at least a diameter of 60 mm and apparent magnitude 11 is a must to view this star under ideal conditions.

The Scottish born astronomer Robert Innes was the first to reveal the existence of Proxima Centauri. Innes used to work in Union Observatory, which is located in South Africa. On October 12, 1915, Innes announced that he has found a faint star with large proper motion.

Kinematics of The Alpha Centauri:

The contents of The Alpha Centauri are active in the background sky. Their positions are apparent to change slowly with time. The Alpha Centauri hides many stars behind it as it is in the same plane with milky way when viewed from earth.

As per the astronomical calculations, the center of mass of Alpha Centauri AB is in motion towards the west with 3620 mili arc seconds(mas).

In 2028, Alpha Centauri A will pass between the earth and a distant red star.

Alpha Centauri And Space Exploration:

Till today, we have completed successful space explorations up to some planets only with an honorable exception of Voyager 1. Our future generations will aim towards Alpha Centauri as a space exploration project.

The rockets we have today, will take hundreds of years to reach the nearest star Proxima Centauri. But research is going on in the field of Nuclear Propelled Rockets that can take us to distant astronomical bodies.

Some Interesting Facts About Alpha Centauri:


  1. Alpha Centauri has a planet:

The Alpha Centauri star system consists of an earth-sized planet that revolves around the star Alpha Centauri B. This planet has got mass equal to earth. Due to very close distance (6 million Km) its surface is assumed to be made up of molten lava.

2.The Alpha Centauri A is the fourth brightest star in the night sky.

3.Alpha Centauri is not easily visible when we consider the northern hemisphere.

4.Proxima Centauri b needs 11.2 days to complete its orbital motion.

5.Alpha Centauri belongs to the constellation of Centaurus.

6. Scientists have got proofs that Alpha Centauri was known to ancient Egyptian and Chinese people.

© 2020 Suyash

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