Learning About Our Neighbor Proxima Centauri #SpaceSaturday
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to our own Sol, even though it is not visible to the naked eye. Scientists are using microlensing to learn more about this low-light neighbor. Here’s more from Centauri Dreams:
Here we’re in new terrain. The gravitational deflection of starlight is well demonstrated, but to use it, we need to have a background object move close enough to Proxima Centauri so that the latter can deflect its light. A measurement of this kind was recently made on the star Stein 3051 B, a white dwarf, using data from the Hubble instrument, the first use of gravitational lensing to measure the mass of a star beyond our Solar System. Zurlo and team have taken advantage of microlensing events at Proxima involving two background stars, one in 2014 (source 1), the other two years later (source 2), but the primary focus of their work is with the second event.
Using the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument (SPHERE) at the Very Large Telescope at Cerro Paranal in Chile, the researchers observed Proxima Centauri and the background stars from March of 2015 to June of 2017. You can see Proxima in the image below, with the two background stars. In the caption, IRDIS refers to the near-infrared imager and spectrograph which is a part of the SPHERE/VLT installation.
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