Hubble's new shot of Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor

Nov 02, 2013
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

(Phys.org) —Shining brightly in this Hubble image is our closest stellar neighbor: Proxima Centauri.

Proxima Centauri lies in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), just over four light-years from Earth. Although it looks bright through the eye of Hubble, as you might expect from the nearest star to the Solar System, Proxima Centauri is not visible to the naked eye. Its average luminosity is very low, and it is quite small compared to other , at only about an eighth of the mass of the sun.

However, on occasion, its brightness increases. Proxima is what is known as a flare star," meaning that convection processes within the star's body make it prone to random and dramatic changes in brightness. The convection processes not only trigger brilliant bursts of starlight but, combined with other factors, mean that Proxima Centauri is in for a very long life. Astronomers predict that this star will remain middle-aged—or a "main sequence" star in astronomical terms—for another four trillion years, some 300 times the age of the current Universe.

These observations were taken using Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). Proxima Centauri is actually part of a triple star system—its two companions, Alpha Centauri A and B, lie out of frame.

Although by cosmic standards it is a close neighbor, Proxima Centauri remains a point-like object even using Hubble's eagle-eyed vision, hinting at the vast scale of the Universe around us.

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srikkanth_kn
1.3 / 5 (8) Nov 02, 2013
Is that image taken during one of those 'Flare' events ?. What about the images of other two companions? (This is rather a short article)
Shootist
1.2 / 5 (12) Nov 02, 2013
What about the images of the other two stars? They are quite some (angular) distance away. Several full moons IIRC.

Alpha Centauri A and B, plus Proxima (shown by arrow as it is not visible at that resolution).

Look -> photo http://en.es-stat...ima.jpeg
Lurker2358
1.1 / 5 (20) Nov 02, 2013
Astronomers predict that this star will remain middle-aged—or a "main sequence" star in astronomical terms—for another four trillion years, some 300 times the age of the current Universe.


Given the fact the present "inflation theory" model hypothesizes a spontaneous change in the laws of physics in the past, it makes no sense to make such predictions, as there is no rational reason for knowing if and when such changes may happen again, nor is there a rational basis for excluding them entirely.

Even excluding those possibilities, the star could end up colliding with another star at some point, or else being sucked up by a black hole; Either of which might bathe the Earth in gamma radiation beyond comprehension.

4 trillion years, even if you assume the universe itself actually lasts that long (a proposition which is not guaranteed by any means,) you're talking about surviving multiple galaxy collisions and mergers during that time; perhaps several dozen or hundreds...
Valentiinro
5 / 5 (11) Nov 02, 2013
Given the fact the present "inflation theory" model hypothesizes a spontaneous change in the laws of physics in the past, it makes no sense to make such predictions


They just mean that's how long it could sit there burning its hydrogen without outside interference. Of course it wouldn't last 4 trillion years if it gets sucked into a black hole or something else changes it. Much like a human life expectancy of 80 years doesn't mean you won't get hit by a bus tomorrow.
Pkunk_
1.7 / 5 (12) Nov 02, 2013
Even excluding those possibilities, the star could end up colliding with another star at some point, or else being sucked up by a black hole; Either of which might bathe the Earth in gamma radiation beyond comprehension.

The chance of that is vanishingly small because of the fact that Proxima Centauri is not gravitationally bound to us in any way. In fact in abt 33,000 years , Proxima will not longer be the closest and "Ross 248" will probably be the next harbinger of doom. (Excluding the mythical nibiru ).
Shootist
1.9 / 5 (14) Nov 02, 2013


Given the fact the present "inflation theory"


Has nothing to do with the age of stars.
sigfpe
5 / 5 (3) Nov 02, 2013
> you're talking about surviving multiple galaxy collisions and mergers during that time

Adams said it best. "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

The gaps between stars are so large that the probability of any particular star colliding with any other as a result of a galactic collision, even in dense regions, is tiny, even taking into account the seemingly vast number of stars in a galaxy.
cantdrive85
1.2 / 5 (18) Nov 02, 2013
> you're talking about surviving multiple galaxy collisions and mergers during that time

Adams said it best. "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

The gaps between stars are so large that the probability of any particular star colliding with any other as a result of a galactic collision, even in dense regions, is tiny, even taking into account the seemingly vast number of stars in a galaxy.

Not to mention the rather large magnetic fields of stars. If two stars were to approach one another their fields would certainly interact first, the likelihood of collision is probably less than nil.
srikkanth_kn
1 / 5 (7) Nov 04, 2013
What about the images of the other two stars? They are quite some (angular) distance away. ...

Look -> photo http://en.es-stat...ima.jpeg

Thank you Shootist !. But I was looking for images similar in detail to the one presented above. Guess that remains to be seen yet.
OceanDeep
1 / 5 (5) Nov 04, 2013
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Astronomers predict that this star will remain middle-aged—or a "main sequence" star in astronomical terms—for another four trillion years, some 300 times the age of the current Universe.
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It would be awesome if rocky planets were found orbiting Proxima Centauri. Imagine having a space probe of ours land there one day. A faster technology probe, I mean. Not the Voyager style ones that would take 73,000 years to get there....