Intro and Visual description
Partially visible only in March and April from 35 degrees north latitude.
Hadar, a knee of the Centaur, is on a line from Alpha Centauri to Crux.
Rigil Kentaurus, or Alpha Centauri, is the closest star system to our sun. It forms one of the forefeet of the Centaur, and a line from it through Hadar points to Crux. In 1689 it was discovered to be a binary star resolvable by telescope, and in 1915 a third star, located a fraction of a light year closer to us, was discovered and named Proxima Centauri. The two main components of Alpha Centauri are now known by spectroscopic evidence to be double stars, so there are actually five stars in this bright star system.
Origin and History
Centaurus is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy. Until early modern times the Centaur included Crux, which now nestles underneath his body.
Skylore, Literature and Culture
Don’t miss the wonderful fantasy novel, Alpha Centauri, by Robert Siegel (Cornerstone/Crossway Books, 1980). Written in the spirit of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Siegel has written an enchanting story of how ancient Britain and the fate of a race of benevolent centaurs on a planet near Alpha Centauri all become bound up with the choices of one little girl.