Proxima Centauri (Latin proxima, meaning “next to” or “nearest to”) is a red dwarf star about 4.24 light-years distant inside the G-cloud in the constellation of Centaurus. It was discovered in 1915 by Robert Innes, the Director of the Union Observatory in South Africa, and is the nearest known star to the Sun, although it is too faint to be seen with the naked eye. Its distance to the second- and third-nearest stars, which form the bright binary Alpha Centauri, is 0.237 ± 0.011 ly (15,000 ± 700 AU). Proxima Centauri may be part of a triple star system with Alpha Centauri A and B. Because of the proximity of this star, its distance from the Sun and angular diameter can be measured directly, from which it can be determined that its diameter is about one-seventh of that of the Sun. Proxima Centauri’s mass is about an eighth of the Sun’s, and its average density is about 40 times that of the Sun. Although it has a very low average luminosity, Proxima is a flare star that undergoes random dramatic increases in brightness because of magnetic activity. The star’s magnetic field is created by convection throughout the stellar body, and the resulting flare activity generates a total X-ray emission similar to that produced by the Sun. The mixing of the fuel at Proxima Centauri’s core through convection and the star’s relatively low energy-production rate suggest that it will be a main-sequence star for another four trillion years, or nearly 300 times the current age of the universe.
The system was first explored by a Martian team in secret during World War III. One decently habitable planet was found circling the star. It was given to various Eastern European powers after the war for colonial development. It has a 20 hour day and its elliptical orbit lead to rapid seasonal changes near the poles.
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