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The Lure of the Exoplanet Next Door

31 Oct 2012, 16:55 UTC
The Lure of the Exoplanet Next Door ESO/L. Calçada/N. Risinger
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Despite the hundreds of extrasolar planets found so far, the discovery of a planet orbiting the nearest star to our Sun has extraordinary consequences for astronomers and the public alike.
The Sun’s nearest neighbor is a multiple star system that lies merely 4.3 light years away – a galactic stone’s throw.
Alpha Centauri is only clearly visible from southern [...]

Artist’s impression of the the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B. CREDIT: ESO/L. Calçada/N. RisingerDespite the hundreds of extrasolar planets found so far, the discovery of a planet orbiting the nearest star to our Sun has extraordinary consequences for astronomers and the public alike.The Sun’s nearest neighbor is a multiple star system that lies merely 4.3 light years away – a galactic stone’s throw.Alpha Centauri is only clearly visible from southern skies as a brilliant white star (it is actually two stars that are too close together to be seen separately by the naked eye). The faint third member of the system, a red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, yields no evidence for planets and is so far from the binary pair as to be inconsequential.The European Southern Observatory reported the planet discovery on October 17. An instrument called the ...

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