Jan 15, 2017 12:38 PM EST
Alpha Centauri System Closest Star System From Earth Renamed [Video]
The closest stellar system from our sun is Alpha Centauri. Apparently, its modern name is about to go extinct and revert being called by its ancient name, Rigil Kentaurus, which means "foot of the centaur" in Arabic.
According to Space.com, the newly named star system is among the 227 stars and star systems that received name clarifications from the International Astronomical Union. The move is also intended to reduced confusion since some stars and star systems have multiple names. Accordingly, not only they have multiple names, some are even misspelled.
An example would be a star called Fomalhaut, which has at least 30 different names and spelling variations. However, Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun at 4.22 light-years away will retain its name, the reason being to make it easier to keep track of the nearest exoplanet to Earth called Proxima b.
The announcement was done during Thanksgiving on Nov. 24. Old school amateur and institutional astronomers think the change may not be so hard to swallow, according to Astronomy Magazine.
The change may not matter to many since people may continue using Alpha Centauri to refer to the star system; however, star charts may be changed to reflect the IAU designations. This might initially get a little problematic without a parenthetical of (aka Alpha Centauri). The full list covering the entire 227 stars is available on the IAU's website.
Meanwhile, before realizing human's audacious dream of interstellar flight, a private effort funded by billionaire Yuri Milner called Breakthrough Starshot aims to conduct high-speed robotic voyages to the stars within a generation, but first, it must find a destination.
Their main target is Rigil Kentaurus (aka Alpha Centauri), the nearest from us at just over four light-years away. Of its known three stars, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri is known to have an Earth-mass world in a star-hugging orbit where liquid water and life as we know it could exist.