History of the Universe

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Nearest Star

The nearest star to us is, of course, the Sun. The next nearest star is Proxima Centauri in the constellation Centaurus. Proxima is a dim M star and is at a distance of 4.24 light-years. This star is an eleventh magnitude star and so is too dim to be visible to the naked eye.

Proxima Centauri is, however, very close to the nearest visible star, which is Alpha Centauri, brightest star of the constellation Centaurus, at a distance of 4.34 light-years. It is a visual binary star with an orbital period of 80 years. The two stars which make up this binary are of spectral types G and K and have a combined magnitude of -0.27.

Alpha Centauri is also called by the Arabic name Rigil Kentaurus (sometimes Rigel, or shortened to Rigil Kent), which means "the foot of the Centaur". An alternative name is Toliman. Proxima and Alpha are thought to be associated by gravity because they have a similar motion in space.

Note that the distances from the Sun are not drawn to scale!

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