Are we going to visit these neighbors?

Will we ever travel to another planetary system? The Alpha Centauri system, then, is a logical choice, given that its three neighboring stars are only four light-years from Earth.

The Alpha Centauri system consists of three stars: the binary star Alpha Centauri and the red dwarf Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri is the closest to Earth and is about 4.22 light-years away. A planet – Proxima b – orbits Proxima Centauri, but it is bombarded with a dose of X-rays 500 times higher than Earth’s. And when Proxima Centauri produces huge solar flares, the dose of X-rays that shoot out Proxima b can be 50,000 times greater than the dose that hits Earth.

Alpha Centauri A and B lie about 4.35 light-years from the Sun. The two double stars revolve around each other in a close orbit: the distance between the two stars is about 23 times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Sun. So this double star can be seen as a single star from the surface of the Earth. The chance of life is greater than Proxima Centauri. Any planets in the habitable zone around Alpha Centauri B tolerate five times more X-rays than similar planets around our Sun. “Chandra shows us that life on planets around these two stars has a chance,” researcher Tom Ayres said in 2018.

Satellite image of the week
Picture of the week is this stunning image of Alpha Centauri A and B. This profile picture was taken in 2016 by the Hubble Space Telescope. Alpha Centauri A – like the sun – G star, although Alpha Centauri A is slightly larger. Alpha Centauri b one K class star: slightly smaller and lighter than our parent star.

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Alpha Centauri is not visible from the Netherlands. You have to travel to the Southern Hemisphere to properly see the star. The star cannot be missed. Alpha Centauri is the fourth brightest star in the night sky. Fortunately, Hubble can zoom in enough to separate the binary star, allowing the two stars to be seen separately.

What are the ten closest stars?
Of course the sun is at the top of the list. This star is only 150 million kilometers – or 0.000016 light-years – from our planet. Without this star, life would not be possible on Earth. The ten closest stars are:
1. Proxima Centauri (4.2 light-years away)
2. Alpha Centauri A & B (4.3 light years away)
3. Barnard’s Star (6 light years away)
4. Wolf 359 (7.8 light years)
5. Lalande 21185 (8.3 light years)
6. Sirius and Sirius B (8.6 light years away)
7. Luyten 726-8 A&B (8.7 light-years away)
8. Ross 154 (9.7 light years away)
9. Ross 248 (10.3 light-years away)
10- Epsilon Eridani (10.5 light years away)

Will we ever travel to our neighboring stars?
In 2016, Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner came up with a great idea: a space flight to the stars closest to Earth. The one-way trip to the Alpha Centauri system is forty trillion miles. Hawking and Milner came up with the idea of ​​using a spacecraft with a large, thin sail. This sail is propelled by a giant laser beam from the ground. Gradually, the sail speed will increase, reaching 60 thousand kilometers per second. Only braking is a problem. Radiation from Alpha Centauri’s stars could be used to slow the probe down, but maybe not fast enough.

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Unfortunately Stephen Hawking He passed away in 2018, but Milner will continue with the project in the meantime. He has already invested $100 million in the project. However, it could take decades before any spacecraft actually traveled to our neighboring stars.

Over the past few decades, space telescopes and satellites have taken beautiful pictures of nebulae, galaxies, star nurseries, and planets. Every weekend, we retrieve one or more great space photos from the archives. Enjoy all the pictures? Show them on this page.

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