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Re: Speculation Re Planet Orbiting Alpha Centauri 1

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Posted by Doug Briggs on December 17, 1997 18:34:50 UTC

: I'm a complete novice to astronomy but am interested in some "expert" opinions for some fiction I am considering writing. What I'd like to know is whether its possible that an inhabitable (by humans) planet might orbit Alpha Centauri 1 in such a way that it actually passes between Alpha Cent. 1 & Alpha Cent. 2, during its year. Is that possible and if it is, what might conditions be like on such a planet? I do not know how close together the stars of the Alpha Centauri system are to one another but I assume there is plenty of room for a planet to orbit one of them? I'm looking for feasible stuff for the imagination here. : Thanks.

Reply: Ever hear of Langrangian points? There are five positions relative to the orbit of one celestial body around another which are gravitationally stable. Two of these share the orbit of the secondary body and are located 60 degrees in front and behind the secondary in its orbit. It is remotely possible a small planet-like body could inhabit one or both of these positions in the orbit of Beta Centauri around Alpha Centauri much like the co-orbital satellites found around Saturn or the Trojan asteroids which share Jupiter's orbit around the sun. It's probably not very likely a sizable body would form there, but hey, this is for science fiction, right?

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