The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Distance to the Nearest Star

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Abell, George. Exploration of the Universe. New York: Holt, 1969: 377. "All three have a parallax of about 0.76" and a distance of 1/0.76, or about 1.3 pc (4.3 LY)" 4.3 light year
"Star." World Book. Chicago: World Book, 1990: vol. 18 842. "Proxima Centauri is 4.3 light-years from the Sun" 4.3 light year
Dixton, Robert T. Dynamic Astronomy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1971: 216. "Our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, has a parallax of 0.75", hence a distance of 1/0.75 = 1.33 parsecs, or 4.3 lt-yr" 4.3 light year
Moore, Patrick. Guide to the Stars. Guildford, UK: Billing & Sons, 1960: 193. "The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.3 light-years away" 4.3 light year
Taylor, Stuart Ross. Solar System Evolution. USA: Lunar and Planetary Institute, 1992: 41. "The nearest star is about 4.3 light years" 4.3 light year

The Sun is about 93 million miles from the earth. The star nearest to the Sun is Proxima Centauri. Astronomers measure the distance between stars in units called light-years. A light-year equals 5.88 million million miles (9.46 million million kilometers). This is the distance light travels in one year at a speed of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second). Proxima Centauri is 4.3 light-years from the Sun. It is a dim red star in the constellation of Centaurus that lies at a distance of over 40 million million kilometers, some 270,000 times greater than the distance between the earth and the sun.

The nearest stellar neighbors to the Sun are three stars that make up a multiple system. To the naked eye the system appears as a single bright star, Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is a double star -- two stars revolving about each other that are too close to be seen as seperate by the naked eye. Near them is the third member of the system, a faint star known as Proxima Centauri. Discovered in 1915, it is smaller than Alpha and Beta. Proxima (meaning nearest) it is slightly nearer to the Sun than the other stars in this triple star system.

The distance from the sun to Proxima Centauri, stated in five sources as a fact, has been found consistent. The distance to Proxima Centauri is 4.3 light-years.

Kathryn Tam -- 1996