Alpha Centaur

Alpha Centaur

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Alpha Centaur It is the brightest star in the constellation of the Centaur and the most shining of the entire celestial vault after Sirius and Canopo. However, it is not visible from European latitudes because it shines in the southern sky.

Observed with a telescope, what at first glance looks like a single star is revealed as a system formed by three suns that rotate around a common Center of gravity. What makes the Alfa Centauro system very interesting is that it represents the closest group of stars to us: just over 4 light years.

To the three suns of Alfa Centauro, they have been indicated with the letters A, B and C. A is a yellow star (spectral category G2), very similar to our sun, not only because of the color, but also in relation to mass, dimensions and luminosity. For this reason it is thought that it may be surrounded by terrestrial planets. B is a blue star (K1), smaller, colder and less luminous.

At an approximate distance of 0.16 light years from this pair, orbit C, the third physical component of the system, which takes about one million years to make a complete turn around its two companions. It is a red Dwarf, about fifty times less luminous than the Sun. It is also called Next Centaur because, in the current position of its orbit around A and B, it is the closest star to us.

Already in ancient times Alpha Centaur was known as a singular star: the Arabs called it Rigil Kentaurus (Horn of the Centaur). Even with a modest eyeglass it is possible to distinguish the two components A and B. On the other hand, component C is only visible with a powerful telescope: it is an explosive Variable star.

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