It doesn’t matter whether you are new to astronomy or an old time admirer, those distant sparkling stars fascinate all. Today’s modern technology and better understandings of astronomy has enabled the human race to discover things that were out of our reach. Anyway, in this edition of astronomy, we present you the 15 closest stars to Earth, along with their interesting details. So sit back and enjoy.
15. EZ Aquarii
Distance: 11.1 Light Years
Consisting of three M type red dwarfs, the EZ Aquarii is second closest triple star system after Alpha Centauri to Earth and is situated in the constellation Aquarius. Although the EZ Aquarii is not of any significance to astronomers right now, the star is slowly crawling towards our Solar System and in 33,000 years or so, it will be only 8.2 light years far from us.
14. WISE 1506+7027
Image Courtesy: NASA/JPL
Distance: 11 Light Years
WISE 1506+7027, or WISE J1506+7027 is a brown dwarf located in the constellation Ursa Minor. At a distance of 11 light years, it is the fourth nearest brown dwarfs to the Earth – others are Luhman 16 star system and WISE 0855−0714. It was discovered in 2011 with the help of data collected from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (or WISE) while observing via infrared wavelength.
13. Ross 128
Image Source: Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg
Distance: 10.8 Light Years
Ross 128 is the 13th nearest star to the Earth. With a detected spectral type of M4 V, it is classified as a red dwarf. Compared to the Sun, Ross 128 has 15% of total solar mass and only 21% of its radius. The star orbits near the galactic plane of Milky Way.
Recently, in 2017, astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory picked up a strange signal, which was said to be coming from Ross 128. However, without any signal follow ups, researchers came to a conclusion that the detected signal might just be frequency disturbances from a man-made satellite orbiting Earth.
12. Lacaille 9352
Artist’s conception of a red dwarf
Distance: 10.6 Light Years
Lacaille 9352 is an M type, main sequence red dwarf located in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. Despite of its relatively close distance, this red dwarf is extremely hard to observe even with the help of a telescope. Based on calculations, Lacaille 9352 or Lac 9352 is the fourth star with the highest known proper motion (6.9 arcseconds/year).
11. Epsilon Eridani
Distance: 10.4 light years
Special Characteristics: High level of Magnetic Activity
Quite a fancy and unusual name for a star, isn’t it. Anyway, Epsilon Eridani is the third closest single star system to the Earth, which can be observed with unaided eye. Due to its relative young age of less than 800 million years, Epsilon Eridani has a higher level of magnetic activity compared to the Sun.
Its name was actually established by Johann Bayer himself in 1603, while it was known to astronomers since the 2nd century AD. It’s been theorized that Epsilon Eridani is a member of the Ursa Major Moving group, which shares a similar stellar motion throughout the galaxy. Luyten 726-8, its nearest stellar system, is expected to come even closer by a distance of 0.93 light years in the next 31,000 years or so.
10. Ross 248
Image Courtesy: FrontierAstro
Distance: 10.3 light years
Also known by the name HH Andromedae, or Gliese 905, Ross 248 is the 10th nearest star to Earth. Despite of its close proximity to our planet, Ross 248 cannot be observed without the help of telescopes. It was first spotted by an American astronomer Frank Elmore Ross in 1926. The star has only 16% of the total Sun’s radius and 12% of its total mass (estimated).
It was later revealed that Ross 248 is a flare star, with momentary increases in its luminosity. In the next 40,000 years, one of the farthest man made object, the Voyager 2 will come 1.7 light-years close to Ross 248. And if everything goes smoothly, it will even cross path with distant Sirius.
9. Ross 154
Image Courtesy: Alchetron
Distance: 9.6 light Years
Forget about seeing this star with naked eye, even to observe it with a telescope you need at least an aperture of 3 inches and ideal conditions to have a faint glimpse of it. Ross 154 is the nearest star in the constellation of Sagittarius and the 9th closest star to Earth in the night sky.
Ross 154 is a M type red dwarf (M3.5V) and generating energy through the process of nuclear fusion. In contrast to the Sun, it’s been estimated that Ross 154 has only 17% of its mass and 24% of its entire radius. Based on its relatively higher angular motion, it’s been deduced that it’s a rather young star with age less than 1 billion years.
8. Luyten 726-8
Distance: 8.7 light Years
The binary star system of Luyten 726-8 is one of the closest stars to Earth. It was discovered back in 1948, when Willem Jacob Luyten, a Dutch-American astronomer was cataloging all the stars having high proper motion. Upon its detection, it was discovered that Luyten-726-8A belongs to a particular class of stellar objects known as the flare stars. Its companion Luyten-726-8B (UV Ceti) also has the similar characteristics.
Distance: 8.6 light years
Apparent Magnitude: -1.46
Famously Known as the Dog star, Sirius is undoubtedly the brightest star in the night sky. When someone observes Sirius with the naked eye, it presents itself as only one star, instead it’s two star systems consisting of a white main sequence and a white dwarf orbiting each other at 20 AU (varies).
Sirius also has a strong historic relevance as the ancient Egyptians worshipped it as the Sopdet, the goddess of fertility. The ancient Greeks actually feared Sirius and believed that it’s the one causing summer’s punishing hot temperatures. They also offered sacrifices to Zeus and Sirius to bring relief and calm.
6. Lalande 21185
Image Courtesy: FrancescoA / Estimated Distances of the nearest stars from 20,000 years
Distance: 8.3 Light Years
Contrary to their general characteristics, Lalande 21185, a red dwarf is one of the brightest star in the Northern hemisphere. It is also the 6th closest star to the Earth. Despite of its brightness and relatively close distance, the star is too dim to be observed with naked eye. It’s visible when seen through a telescope. With lower temperature and mass about as much as half of the Sun, it’s a perfect example of a type-M main sequence star, which is releasing almost all of its energy in infrared wavelength.
5. Wolf 359
Distance: 7.8 Light Years
Located in the constellation Leo, Wolf 359 or CN Leonis is approx, 7.8 light years away from the Earth and have an apparent magnitude of 7.1. With an estimated mass of 9% that of the Sun, it is just above the stellar classification of a brown dwarf (stellar objects bellow 8% of the Sun’s mass are classified as brown dwarfs). Wolf 359 is popular particularly in the fiction world.
4. WISE 0855−0714
Distance: 7.2 Light Years
WISE 0855−0714 was detected for the first time in 2013 and was later confirmed by Spitzer and the Gemini North telescope in the same year. Located in the constellation Hydra, this sub-brown dwarf has third highest proper motion after Barnard’s star and Kapteyn’s Star. But wait there is more to the story.
Researchers actually suspect that it might not be a star at all. According to IAU standards, an object with mass greater than 13 Mjup is considered a brown dwarf, but WISE 0855−0714 only has a mass of 3 to 10 MJup. So there is a possibility that it might be a rogue planet just like the Cha 110913-773444.
3. Luhman 16
Distance: 6.5 light years
Other designations: WISE J104915.57-531906
The Luhman 16 star system is made up of two brown dwarfs orbiting each other in a close proximity. Located in the constellation Vela, Luhman 16 is apparently closer to the galactic plane — space where the majority of galactic mass lies and is also vastly populated by stars. The enormity of stellar light coming from its location is one of the main reasons why the Luhman 16 was not discovered anytime earlier.
2. Bernard’s Star
Distance: 5.9 light Years
Unique Characteristics: Have the largest known proper motion
Well, technically, Bernard Star is the fourth nearest star to the Earth only after three stars in the Alpha Centauri system. Anyway, the Bernard’s close proximity to the Earth has led to many unprecedented discoveries. One such discovery is the largest relative motion of the star, which is 10.3 arcseconds per year.
Due to its close proximity to the Earth and a favorable observatory location near the Earth’s celestial equator, the Bernard’s star is among the very few intensely studied stellar objects in the sky. In a popular speculation, few scientists have claimed that at-least one gas giant should be orbiting around the star, though the majority of scientific community sticks with the possibility of smaller planets, but no such planets have been discovered yet.
1. Proxima Centauri
Image Courtesy: NASA/ESA
Distance: 4.35 Light Years
Star System: Alpha Centauri
Proxima Centauri is the third and the smallest component of the Alpha Centauri binary system, the closest star system to the Earth, where Proxima is gravitationally bound by a massive main sequence star Alpha Centauri A and its companion Alpha Centauri B. Located in the constellation Centaurus, its low apparent magnitude of 11.05 means that we cannot see the star with unaided eye.
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In 2016, the European Southern Observatory detected a planet Proxima b orbiting around the star at the distance of 0.05 AU or 7.5 million kilometers, making it the closest exoplanet from the Earth. What excites the researchers even more is the location of the planet in reference to Proxima Centauri, which is in the so called Goldilocks zone, where water could exist in the liquid form on the surface, igniting the debate whether life is possible on that planet.
Note: We haven’t included the Sun in this list, which in actuality is the closest star to the Earth, but due to the fact that it’s an integral part of our solar system, we believe its understandable.