The Sun's Nearest Star

Below is a map of the nearest stars to Earth in our galaxy followed by a few points of explanation including a list of the stars featured in the map. You can also buy this map as a print for inspiration at home or work.

Map of the nearest stars to Earth in our galaxy

Map Explained

Diagram explaining astronical unit

Where is Earth?

Earth isn't visible in the diagram above because the scale is too large to show 1 Astronomical Unit (the distance between Earth and the Sun). There are 63,241.1 AU’s in 1 light-year which means that the Earth is actually hidden well within the yellow circle used to symbolise the Sun.

Diagram explaining astronical unit

Orientation

To understand this diagram, try to imagine you are looking towards the Sun from a great distance (beyond 12 light-years). The stars surrounding the Sun have been plotted using their angular position from the celestial equator which is actually the Earth’s Equator projected onto the night’s sky.

Diagram explaining astronical unit

Scale

The measurements in the scale above are for distances parallel to the declination plane. However the featured stars are not exactly on this plane, and as a result, distances appear shortened.

Diagram explaining Alpha Centauri star system

Star System

Alpha Centauri is actually two stars named Alpha Centauri A and B, making it a binary star system. There is speculation that Proxima Centauri is a part of A and B’s star system. As a result, Proxima is sometimes called Alpha Centauri C.

Proxima Centauri planet diagram

Planets

An Earth-sized planet has been found orbiting Proxima Centauri named Proxima b. Interestingly, Proxima b also appears to be within the habitable zone, the area in which liquid water can be present and therefore has the potential for life.

Diagram showing Proxima Centauri in the night sky

In The Night Sky

Proxima Centauri can be found near the Centaurus constellation and is highlighted in gold in the diagram above. A telescope is needed to see Proxima. However, Alpha Centauri is Proxima’s much brighter neighbour and is visible to the naked eye.

Diagram showing Proxima Centauri in the night sky

Where on Earth

Viewing either Proxima or Alpha Centauri from Earth requires looking from a location below around 29˚ latitude. Neither is visible from most of North America and Europe, but both stars are visible from Africa and South America.

Star List

1. The Sun

0.00001581 light-years away (or 1AU)

2. Proxima Centauri

4.2 light-years away

3. Alpha Centauri

4.4 light-years away

stars beyond our solar system design print for sale

Finding the Sun's Nearest Star, A3 Poster, Gold Foil

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Credits and references

This map is an artists impression made using data and information gathered using various sources and tools. For this particular map the information I needed was the distance of stars in light-years, the Right Ascension and Declination angles using the Equatorial Coordinate System. This map was designed in mid 2018. Here are some of the tools I used: SIMBAD Astronomical Database, Wikipedia, Sky Guide app and ESA Gaia Data,

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