How Would Our Sun Look From Our Nearest Star System?

How Would Our Sun Look From Our Nearest Star System?

If you viewed the constellation Cassiopeia from our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. Our sun would turn the 'W' shaped constellation into a zigzag.

Sun from Alpha Centauri


This is a fun one to try to picture in your mind. But first let’s have a look at Cassiopeia and Alpha Centauri.

Cassiopeia

The constellation Cassiopeia is a northern hemisphere circumpolar constellation. It is very easy to see because it is bright and forms an iconic ‘W’ shape in the night sky. You can find it opposite the Plough (Big Dipper) on the other side of Polaris, the pole star.  Some of the treasures of the night sky are found near to Cassiopeia including the famous double cluster. First discovered by Hipparchus in 130 BC these open clusters make for a fantastic view of two deep sky objects close to each other in binoculars or a telescope (although officially the cluster is located in the constellation of Perseus). You can find more of Cassiopeia’s treasures here.

The Double Cluster.jpg

 The Double Cluster by Rawastrodata


Mythology of Cassiopeia

Let’s diverge a bit and explain some of the mythology behind Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia was an arrogant Queen. She was married to Cepheus, the king of Aethiopia. She boasted that her daughter, Andromeda was more beautiful than the Sea Nymphs. This angered Poseidon who sent the sea monster Cetus to destroy the King and Queen’s land. In order to stop this from happening Cassiopeia sacrificed her daughter by offering her to Cetus. However, Perseus came to Andromeda’s rescue and later married her. As punishment Cassiopeia was placed in the sky near to the celestial north pole so that she would forever spend half the year upside down.


Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri is the nearest star system to us. Although it is made up of three stars it appears as one star from Earth. The star system is the third brightest “star” in the sky. Due to it consisting of three stars it is affectionately known as the ‘triple-star’ to observers. Proxima Centauri is the dimmest of the three stars but it is the closest star to us at 4.24 light years away. The Alpha Centauri system is 4.37 light years away. At the time of writing exoplanets had been found in the Alpha Centauri system. Who knows one day we may be sending people to visit.

Alpha centauri star system and exoplanet eso1241b.jpg

Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada/N. Risinger

The Sky From Alpha Centauri

Once you have spotted Cassiopeia you will recognise it easily all year round and the familiarity of this constellation is what makes this fact fun. Just imagine if we ever managed to form a colony on an exoplanet around one of the stars in the Alpha Centauri system.  The humans living there would look up in the sky from the surface of their planet 4.3 light years away and see the familiar and easily recognizable ‘W’ shape of Cassiopeia and tagged on the end turning the ‘W’ into a zigzag, blazing the brightest of all the stars in the constellation, would be the 0.5 magnitude star that we call the Sun. A constant reminder of home and a comforting sight for the pioneering people that bravely left Earth to form a colony and in doing so paved the way to safeguarding the future of the human race. 

The image below is of how the night sky from an exoplanet around alpha centauri would appear for those of us that can only dream of visiting.

Sky-from-alpha-centauri.jpg


Here is a video on how we might visit Alpha Centauri.

Find more on: Astronomy Science and News

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