Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Calling Alpha Centauri

Artists depiction of planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth Credit ESO L Calcada N Risinger skysurvey dot org
Artist's depiction of planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth. Credit ESO/L. Cal├žada/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)

So, there's really a planet orbiting the star closest to our sun. The European Southern Observatory website states:  "European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile." 
This star system, Alpha Centauri, is one of the most referenced in science fiction literature. The Robinson Family in Lost in Space were sent on a mission to Alpha Centuari. It was the center of the Transformer's universe and was the sun depicted in Avatar. Truly amazing how fiction can often foreshadow the future! Watch the promo (below) of Lost in Space for the mission statement of their journey to Alpha Centauri.

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