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Atom & Cosmos

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illustration of the distance to Proxima Centauri

Proxima Centauri, the nearest member of the Alpha Centauri triple star system, is just a little more than 4 light-years away from the sun. With a proposed propulsion scheme using alpha particle decay, travel time to the star's newly discovered planet would be no shorter than 4,000 years.

illustration of the surface of Proxima b

A WORLD NEXT DOOR  Proxima Centauri casts a reddish glow over the surface of Proxima b (illustrated), the closest exoplanet to Earth, while two companion stars, Alpha Centauri A and B, appear as bright pinpricks of light.

eclipse

CROWNING MOMENT  During a total solar eclipse in 2017, the moon will block the sun, allowing people to see the solar corona (as seen in this picture from a 1999 eclipse).

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