Tau Centauri (Tau Cen) is the Bayer Classification for the star. The Bayer Classification was created by Johann Bayer in the early nineteenth century. The brightest star in the constellation is normally given the Alpha designation although there are exceptions such as Pollux which is Beta Geminorum.
The Id of the star in the Yale Bright Star Catalogue is HR4802. HIP61622 is the reference name for the star in the Hipparcos Star Catalogue. The Id of the star in the Henry Draper catalogue is HD109787.
The Gould star designation is one that was designed by American astronomer, Benjamin Apthorp Gould. Gould stars are predominantly in the Southern and Equatorial constellations but do appear in northern constellations such as Bootes and Orion. The star has the designation 131 G. Centauri. There are no stars with a Gould designation in Ursa Major for example.
More details on objects' alternative names can be found at Star Names .
The location of the main sequence star in the night sky is determined by the Right Ascension (R.A.) and Declination (Dec.), these are equivalent to the Longitude and Latitude on the Earth. The Right Ascension is how far expressed in time (hh:mm:ss) the star is along the celestial equator. If the R.A. is positive then its eastwards. The Declination is how far north or south the object is compared to the celestial equator and is expressed in degrees. For Tau Centauri, the location is 12h 37m 42.33 and -48° 32` 28.6 .
All stars like planets orbit round a central spot, in the case of planets, its the central star such as the Sun. In the case of a star, its the galactic centre. The constellations that we see today will be different than they were 50,000 years ago or 50,000 years from now. Proper Motion details the movements of these stars and are measured in milliarcseconds. The star is moving -6.01 ± 0.28 milliarcseconds/year towards the north and -186.26 ± 0.53 milliarcseconds/year east if we saw them in the horizon.
The Radial Velocity, that is the speed at which the star is moving away/towards the Sun is 5.50 km/s with an error of about 2.30 km/s . When the value is negative then the star and the Sun are getting closer to one another, likewise, a positive number means that two stars are moving away. Its nothing to fear as the stars are so far apart, they won't collide in our life-time, if ever.
Luminosity is the amount of energy that a star pumps out and its relative to the amount that our star, the Sun gives out. The figure of 42.43 that I have given is based on the value in the Simbad Hipparcos Extended Catalogue at the University of Strasbourg from 2012.
Tau Centauri has a spectral type of A2V. This means the star is a blue - white main sequence star. The star has a B-V Colour Index of 0.04 which means the star's temperature has been calculated using information from Morgans @ Uni.edu at being 9,025 Kelvin.
Radius has been calculated as being 2.62 times bigger than the Sun. The Sun's radius is 695,800km, therefore the star's radius is an estimated 1,821,735.66.km. If you need the diameter of the star, you just need to multiple the radius by 2. However with the 2007 release of updated Hipparcos files, the radius is now calculated at being round 2.61. The figure is derived at by using the formula from SDSS and has been known to produce widely incorrect figures.
Tau Centauri has an apparent magnitude of 3.85 which is how bright we see the star from Earth. Apparent Magnitude is also known as Visual Magnitude. If you used the 1997 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of 0.82 If you used the 2007 Parallax value, you would get an absolute magnitude of 0.83. Magnitude, whether it be apparent/visual or absolute magnitude is measured by a number, the smaller the number, the brighter the Star is. Our own Sun is the brightest star and therefore has the lowest of all magnitudes, -26.74. A faint star will have a high number.
Using the original Hipparcos data that was released in 1997, the parallax to the star was given as 24.77 which gave the calculated distance to Tau Centauri as 131.68 light years away from Earth or 40.37 parsecs. If you want that in miles, it is 771,569,580,230,347.50.
In 2007, Hipparcos data was revised with a new parallax of 24.85 which put Tau Centauri at a distance of 131.25 light years or 40.24 parsecs. It should not be taken as though the star is moving closer or further away from us. It is purely that the distance was recalculated.
Using the 2007 distance, the star is roughly 8,300,037.97 Astronomical Units from the Earth/Sun give or take a few. An Astronomical Unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun. The number of A.U. is the number of times that the star is from the Earth compared to the Sun.
The star's Galacto-Centric Distance is 7,380.00 Parsecs or 24,070.85 Light Years. The Galacto-Centric Distance is the distance from the star to the Centre of the Galaxy which is Sagittarius A*.
A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).
If you were to drive there at about 120 m.p.h. in a car with an infinity engine so you didn't have to pull over for petrol, it would take you 6,450,811,576,173.47 hours or 736,394,015.54 years.
At the time of writing, the fastest probe so far created is the New Horizon probe which is travelling at a speed of 33,000 m.p.h. If the probe was travelling to Tau Centauri then it would take 23,457,496,640.63 hours / 2,677,796.42 years to get there. Speed Ref: N.A.S.A.
It would to take a spaceship journey travelling at the speed of light, 131.68 years to get there. We don't have the technology or spaceship that can carry people over that distance yet.
The source of the information if it has a Hip I.D. is from Simbad, the Hipparcos data library based at the University at Strasbourg, France. Hipparcos was a E.S.A. satellite operation launched in 1989 for four years. The items in red are values that I've calculated so they could well be wrong. Information regarding Metallicity and/or Mass is from the E.U. Exoplanets. The information was obtained as of 12th Feb 2017.
|Primary / Proper / Traditional Name||Tau Centauri|
|Alternative Names||Tau Cen, HD 109787, HIP 61622, HR 4802, 131 G. Centauri|
|Constellation's Main Star||No|
|Multiple Star System||No / Unknown|
|Star Type||Main Sequence Dwarf Star|
|Absolute Magnitude||0.82 / 0.83|
|Visual / Apparent Magnitude||3.85|
|Naked Eye Visible||Yes - Magnitudes|
|Right Ascension (R.A.)||12h 37m 42.33|
|Declination (Dec.)||-48° 32` 28.6|
|Galactic Latitude||14.27 degrees|
|Galactic Longitude||300.59 degrees|
|1997 Distance from Earth||24.77 Parallax (milliarcseconds)|
|131.68 Light Years|
|2007 Distance from Earth||24.85 Parallax (milliarcseconds)|
|131.25 Light Years|
|8,300,037.97 Astronomical Units|
|Galacto-Centric Distance||24,070.85 Light Years / 7,380.00 Parsecs|
|Proper Motion Dec.||-6.01 ± 0.28 milliarcseconds/year|
|Proper Motion RA.||-186.26 ± 0.53 milliarcseconds/year|
|Radial Velocity||5.50 ± 2.30 km/s|
|Stellar Luminosity (Lsun)||42.43|
|Radius (x the Sun)||2.61|
|Effective Temperature||9,025 Kelvin|
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