Fr.: Alpha du Centaure
Brightest star in the constellation → Centaurus (V = -0.01 magnitude) and third brightest star in the sky; also known as → Rigil Kent. It is a main-sequence star of the same spectral class (G2 V) as the Sun. Actually, Alpha Centauri is a triple-star system, the components being designated A, B, and C. The component C is also called → Proxima Centauri because it is the closest star to the Earth (other than the Sun), at a distance of 4.22 → light-years, but it is too dim to be seen with the naked eye. Components A and B are currently about 4.36 light-years away.
Alpha (α), a Gk. letter of alphabet used in the → Bayer designation; Centauri, genitive of → Centaurus.
Alpha Centauri system
Fr.: système Alpha du Centaure
A system of three stars, the → close binary Alpha Centauri A (→ spectral type G2 V) and Alpha Centauri B (K1 V), and a small and faint → red dwarf, Alpha Centauri C (M6 Ve), better known as → Proxima Centauri. To the unaided eye, the two main components (AB) appear as a single object with an → apparent visual magnitude of -0.27, forming the brightest star in the southern constellation → Centaurus and the third brightest star in the night sky, after → Sirius and → Canopus. The individual visual magnitudes of the components A, B, and Proxima are +0.01, +1.33, and +11.05, respectively. The masses of A and B are 1.100 and 0.907 Msun, respectively. Their → effective temperatures are (A) 5,790 K and (B) 5,260 K; their luminosities (A) 1.519 Lsun and (B) 0.500 Lsun. The binary members are separated in average by only 23 → astronomical units. They revolve around a common center of mass with a period of about 80 years. Both have a distance of 4.37 → light-years. Proxima Centauri, lying about 15,000 AU apart from AB, is → gravitationally bound to them. It has a mass of 0.1 Msun, a radius of 0.1 Rsun, a luminosity of about 0.001 Lsun, and an → effective temperature of ~ 3,000 K.