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Alpha Centauri

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Alpha Centauri (Latinized from α Centauri and often abbreviated Alpha Cen or α Cen) is a triple star system in the constellation of Centaurus. It consists of 3 stars: Alpha Centauri A (officially Rigil Kentaurus), Alpha Centauri B (officially Toliman) and Alpha Centauri C (officially Proxima Centauri). Proxima Centauri is also the closest star to the Sun at 4.2465 light-years (1.3020 pc). Alpha Centauri A and B are Sun-like stars (Class G and K, respectively), and together they form the binary star system Alpha Centauri AB. To the naked eye, the two main components appear to be a single star with an apparent magnitude of −0.27. It is the brightest star in the constellation and the third-brightest in the night sky, outshone only by Sirius and Canopus. Alpha Centauri A has 1.1 times the mass and 1.5 times the luminosity of the Sun, while Alpha Centauri B is smaller and cooler, at 0.9 times the Sun's mass and less than 0.5 times its luminosity. The pair orbit around a common centre with an orbital period of 79 years. Their elliptical orbit is eccentric, so that the distance between A and B varies from 35.6 astronomical units (AU), or about the distance between Pluto and the Sun, to 11.2 AU, or about the distance between Saturn and the Sun. Alpha Centauri C, or Proxima Centauri, is a small faint red dwarf (Class M). Though not visible to the naked eye, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun at a distance of 4.24 ly (1.30 pc), slightly closer than Alpha Centauri AB. Currently, the distance between Proxima Centauri and Alpha Centauri AB is about 13,000 AU (0.21 ly), equivalent to about 430 times the radius of Neptune's orbit. Proxima Centauri has three known planets: Proxima b, an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone discovered in 2016; Proxima c, a super-Earth 1.5 AU away, which is possibly surrounded by a huge ring system, discovered in 2019; and Proxima d, a candidate sub-Earth which orbits very closely to the star, announced in 2022. Alpha Centauri A may have a Neptune-sized habitable-zone planet, though it is not yet known to be planetary in nature and could be an artifact of the discovery mechanism. Alpha Centauri B has no known planets: planet Bb, purportedly discovered in 2012, was subsequently found to likely not exist, and a separate transiting planet has yet to be confirmed.