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Triple star in the constellation Centaurus, the faintest component of which, Proxima Centauri, is currently the closest star to the Sun (about 4.2 light-years away). The two brighter components are about 0.2 light-year farther from the Sun. As seen from Earth, the system is the third brightest star (after Sirius and Canopus); Proxima is indistinguishable as a separate star to the unaided eye. Alpha Centauri can be seen from Earth's surface only from points south of about 40° N.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Alpha Centauri, visit Britannica.com.
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