Alpha Centauri is the brightest star in the southern Centaurus constellation. It is the fourth brightest star in the night sky, with a magnitude of -0.01. It is visible in the Southern Hemisphere, and is too far south for most of the Northern Hemisphere to see.
Alpha Centauri is a binary star system of two stars A & B. The distance between them is quite close. To the naked eye, the stars are too close for the eye to be able to see them as separate. Their orbit is about the distance of the giant planets from our Sun.
There is a third star, Proxima Centauri (or Alpha Centauri C). This is usually considered separately, but in fact it is also gravitationally connected to the other two. It is actually slightly closer to us, with a very much larger orbit around A and B.
Viewed as a triple star system, Alpha Centauri is the closest to our own, being 4.2-4.4 light years (ly) away. It consists of two main stars, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B (which form a binary star together) at a distance of 4.36 ly, and a dimmer red dwarf named Proxima Centauri at a distance of 4.22 ly. Both of the two main stars are rather similar to the Sun. The larger star, Alpha Centauri A, is the most similar to the Sun, but a little larger and brighter.
- The next closest star is Barnard's Star.
Pourbaix, D. (2002). "Constraining the difference in convective blueshift between the components of alpha Centauri with precise radial velocities". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 386 (1): 208–85. arXiv:astro-ph/0202400. Bibcode:2002A&A...386..280P. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20020287. Unknown parameter
- Other names are Rigil Kentaurus or Rigil Kent, Toliman and Bungula. Alpha Centauri A is also known as HD 128620, HR 5459, CP-60°5483, GCTP 3309.00A, and LHS 50. Alpha Centauri B is also known as HD 128621, HR 5460, GCTP 3309.00B, and LHS 51.