What are the closest and/or brightest stars?
What are the closest and/or brightest stars? How come alpha centauri does not appear as the brightest star in the night sky, since it is the closest?
There are two things which affect how bright a star appear from Earth. One is how close it is, and the other is how intrinsically bright it appears. Alpha centauri is not intrinsically a very bright star. It has an absolute magnitude of 4.4 only, which means it's slightly brighter than that Sun (which has an absolute magnitude of 4.8 - bigger is dimmer with magnitudes). The brightest star known is Sirius though, which is about twice as far away as Alpha Cen, but has an absolute magnitude of 1.4 (which means it is instrinsically almost 40 times brighter). See the Stars and Constellations website for further explanation of magnitudes.
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
- How can I measure the distance of a star?
- How do we measure distances to other stars?
- Where is the nearest black hole?
- What is apparent magnitude?
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist
This page has been accessed 29421 times since November 1, 2002.
Last modified: December 16, 2002 11:15:29 AM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)