Sunday, January 29, 2017

Proxima's orbit around Alpha Centauri


Kervella et al


Proxima and Alpha Centauri AB have almost identical distances and proper motions with respect to the Sun. Although the probability of such similar parameters is in principle very low, the question whether they actually form a single gravitationally bound triple system has been open since the discovery of Proxima one century ago. Owing to recent high precision radial velocity measurements and the revision of the parameters of the Alpha Cen pair, we show that Proxima and Alpha Cen are gravitationally bound with a high degree of confidence. The orbital period of Proxima is approximately 600 000 years, with a moderate excentricity of 0.42 +0.07 -0.08. Proxima comes within 5.3 -0.9 +1.2 kAU of Alpha Cen at periastron, and the apastron occurs at 12.9 +0.3 -0.1 kAU. This orbital motion may have influenced the formation or evolution of the recently discovered planet orbiting Proxima as well as circumbinary planet formation around Alpha Cen.

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