ALPHA CENTAURI (Rigil Kentaurus): Our Sun’s Closest Neighbor

Suns Closest Neighbor

Last Updated: Dec 30, 2018

How far is Alpha Centauri from Earth?

Alpha Centauri (Rigil Kentaurus) is the closest star system away from our sun. It’s about 4.3 light years away from Earth.

Or another way to measure it – Alpha Centauri distance is about 25 trillion miles away! Overall, it’s about 3 times closer to the next sun-like star.

Recently, International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently made the name change from Alpha Centauri to Rigil Kentaurus official.

It took back its ancient moniker “Rigil Kentaurus” which means “foot of the centaur” in Arabic.

How many stars are part of Alpha Centauri?

Suns Closest Neighbor

This triple star system of Alpha Centauri contains the following 3 stars:

  • First, Alpha Centauri A is close to our sun in age and luminosity. Alpha Centauri A and B orbit closely to each other.
  • Second, Alpha Centauri B is smaller and dimmer than our sun. But it’s still not too different from our sun.
  • Lastly, Alpha Centauri C (Proxima) is a smaller red dwarf star with a much larger orbit. Because of its orbit, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth.

The diagram on the right illustrates the locations of the star systems closest to the sun. The year when the distance to each system was determined is listed after the system name. Close neighborhood is mostly red and brown dwarfs, probably without any planets.

Are there any planets in the Alpha Centauri system?

Goldilocks Zone

Alpha Centauri is one of the most exciting star systems in the universe.

Could life exist in Alpha Centauri? Crowds of astronomers are mesmerized at this star system because of its Earth-like planet.

This is why NASA plans to launch a probe towards Alpha Centauri in 2069. The intent of this interstellar space mission is to search for biosignatures on planets around the stars in the Alpha Centauri system.

The Goldilocks zone describes where liquid water can persist. For example, because Earth receives a hearty portion of sun’s rays (1 astronomical unit), it can sustain life. Even here in our Milky Way galaxy, at least 10 possible habitable planets such as within Proxima Centauri.

Is Alpha Centauri getting closer or farther away from Earth?

Milky Way Galaxy Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri is getting closer to Earth. But don’t be alarmed!

It’s approaching the Earth at about 20 km/s and will be closest in year 29,700 AD.

At this time, it will be about 3.26 light years away.

However, this is not an alarming rate of movement since it was first measured in the 1830s.

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