The sky above us is home to about 200 sextillion stars. Astronomers calculated the number of 2 trillion galaxies in the universe to arrive at that number. Each of those galaxies is home to approximately 100 billion stars. To learn more about the stars, galaxy, and universe, you could start by discovering the five closest stars to Earth.
The closest star to Earth is our sun. The sun is a yellow star, close enough to the planet to see its light in 8 minutes. Although the sun is technically the nearest star, we will not include the sun in our list of star neighbors.
1. Proxima Centauri
You cannot look into the night sky and pick Proxima Centauri out. The star is over four light-years away but has been identified as the closest star after the sun. This star is a red dwarf star, also known as an “M.” star. Red dwarf stars are the most common type of star. These stars have the longest life expectancy of all stars.
Planets do orbit Proxima Centauri. Proxima B was identified as a planet orbiting the star. Proxima B is a large planet with a mass that is 1.3 times greater than the mass of Earth. Speculations about possible life on Proxima B have been put to rest because the star Proxima Centauri has occasional flares. The flares are so intense that they would destroy anything on a planet orbiting the star.
2. Alpha Centauri A And B
The second-closest stars to Earth are Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. These twin stars are part of a three-star system that begins with Proxima Centauri. Alpha Centauri A is also called Rigil Kentaurus, and Alpha Centauri B is called Toliman. These stars are positioned about 4.367 light-years away from Earth.
No planet orbits these stars. However, they do burn bright yellow like our sun. These two stars can be seen with the naked eye. They have been identified as the third-brightest star in the night sky. When you see them, you see both stars simultaneously, so their brightness intensifies. Discovering the five closest stars to Earth will help us better understand our planet and galaxy.
3. Barnard’s Star
Barnard’s star is similar to Proxima Centauri. They are both red dwarf stars, and they both have occasional flares. Barnard’s star is about 5.978 light-years away from Earth. This is the fastest-moving star in the sky, so it has been nicknamed “the runaway star.” Each night, this star moves 10.4″ across the sky. That does not sound like a large distance until you realize the star is traveling at 310,000 mph (500,000 km/h).
This star has existed for more than a billion years. Three planets are orbiting it. Barnard’s Star is famously referred to in books and Hollywood movies. It has been mentioned in several books and movies over the years.
4. Wolf 359
Wolf 359 is the fourth closest star to Earth on our list, and like Barnard’s star, it has a famous name because it is a radio drama. The podcast has been airing for four seasons. However, the Wolf 359 star is not as well-known as the podcast. The star is a red dwarf located 7.795 light-years from Earth.
Wolf 359 is located in the constellation Leo. Like Barnard’s star, Wolf 359 moves quickly, flaring occasionally like Proxima Centauri. This star is different from the others because it is fully convective. That means the heat from the center portion of the star radiates out to reach the surface areas.
5. Lalande 21185
Lalande 21185 is the fifth star on our list. This star is located in the constellation of Ursa Major and is 8.037 light-years away from Earth. Like most other stars named in the list, Lalande 21185 is a red dwarf. It is one of the brightest red dwarf stars. Even with the extra brightness, the star is too dim to be seen by the naked eye.
Lalande is small and dim, but it stands out because it has a planet similar to Earth and one similar to Neptune orbiting it. Of course, a planet similar to Earth is too hot for living things to inhabit. There are expectations of discovering a third planet orbiting Lalande 21185 when more powerful telescopes are available.
Summary of The 5 Stars Closest to Earth
|Distance From Earth
|Alpha Centauri k
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