Thursday, July 30, 2009

Where is Proxima Centauri?

If you were able to view the galaxy from outside, the Sun and Proxima Centauri would be seemingly lost in the immense cloud of stars which compose this Galaxy.
To make this more understandable for those of you on the surface of Planet Earth, Proxima Centauri is in one way extremely far away according to the terms of measurement you are accustomed to; Approximately 25 trillion miles distance from the Sun.
But in Galactic and Intergalactic terms, you can consider it to be in relative proximity to Earth's Solar System. Among the 100 billion or more stars visible in this Galaxy, The stars Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri (also called Alpha Centauri C) are the three closest to Planet Earth.
Proxima Centauri is a Red Dwarf star located about 4.2 lightyears away from your Planet. (this means about 5.9 trillion miles).

On Proxima's surface, flares, or explosive outbursts, are occuring almost constantly. This is due to Proxima Centauri's extremely low mass, about one tenth of the mass of your Sun. Inside the cores of low mass stars, nuclear fusion reactions that convert hydrogen to helium proceed, albeit very slowly. These reactions, create a turbulent, convectional motion within the interior core. This convection stores up great magnetic energy forces, which is often released in the form of explosions in the star's upper atmosphere, producing flares in the form of X-rays and other types of light emissions.
This is the very same process that produces X-rays on the surface of your Sun. Except that the magnetic energy of your Sun, is released in a much weaker way and the explosions appear through gas loop heating, which causes occasional flares.

Proxima Centauri X Ray Picture

Red dwarfs are the most common type of star known to Humans, with an average mass between about 8% and 50% of the mass of the Sun. They are commonly much less bright than the Sun, but will generally shine for much longer, up to trillions of years in the case of Proxima Centauri, where as the lifetime of the Sun's luminosity is expected to reach a mere 10 billion-year lifetime.

Viewed from afar, what you have come to know as the "Milky Way Galaxy" would look like a whirlwind cloud storm with two arms, a spiral of stars, this cloud of stars is not spherical in shape, rather is flat. 100,000 lightyears in diameter with an ever increasing density of stars the more you move towards the center. The core however, seems to be an empty hole. This is because there is a black hole in the center which prevents light from escaping. The black hole is also the reason why this Galaxy is flat.
You can see Proxima Centauri's sister stars with the naked eye from Earth's surface, but Proxima is not visible without use of some kind of apparatus.

Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B can be seen as bright stars. these two stars are what you call a "binary" star. This is because they are orbiting each other. Alpha Centauri A and B are located approximately 4.4 lightyears from your Sun (perhaps around 6 Trillion miles or more).
Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to Earth, is so far away it's only a pinpoint of light even when viewed through some of your biggest telescopes when viewed from Earth. Proxima Centauri is extremely close to us in Galactic terms.

Does Proxima have planets? This is something that Earth's People shall have to wait and see when the time is right.
Proxima Centauri is about 6 Billion Earth years old

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