The two diagrams below show 3D views of the twenty star systems nearest to us. They were generated using a Visual BASIC program. Position information for the stars was provided by RECONS (Research Consortium of Nearby Stars). Because it was necessary to convert right ascension and declination values to x,y coordinates, I can not guarantee that all of the star positions are correct. They do seem to be close to the star map in the issue of Astronomy Magazine cited below. The top diagram shows the view from directly above the Earth's North Pole. The second one shows the view from directly above the Earth's Equator. The stars range in distance from four to twelve light years away. The star image sizes indicate the relative distances of the stars from the observer, rather than their individual sizes.
The colors indicate the spectral types of individual stars. In the several cases where there are multiple stars, the color relates to the brightest one. The majority of them are M stars, known as red dwarves, indicated by a red or orange color. They have a surface temperature of between 2200 and 3900 degrees Kelvin. The Sun, Alpha Centauri(about four light years away), and Tau Ceti are G type stars, indicated as yellow. They have a surface temperature between 5300 to 6000 degrees Kelvin. Sirius, the brightest star in our sky, is an A star with a surface temperature of 7400 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin. It is a white star with a visual luminosity 22 times that of the sun. Procyon A is an F star and the second hottest of these stars with a temperature between 6000 and 7000 degrees Kelvin. It appears to be on it's way to becoming a giant.View of nearby stars from directly above the Earth's north pole
The twenty stars systems displayed here range in distance from 4 light years to 12 light years. One of these, Epsilon Eridani, at a distance of 10.5 light years, has at least one planet, with a mass slightly larger than Jupiter. It has a highly eliptical orbit, with a distance between 112 and 492 million miles from its parent star. Two members of the Epsilon Indi star system are brown dwarves, so cool that they can only be seen in the infrared. Barnard's star, the second closest star to us, appears to be a visitor from the far away galactic halo. It's velocity is about ten times what it would be expected to be.
It appears that the stars in this display are not distributed randomly. They seem to describe a loose spiral shape with a vertical axis. A map of the 40 nearest stars might present a more easily recognized pattern.
Most of the information here is taken from the RECONS web page (www.chara.gsu.edu/RECONS/TOP100.posted.htm) and the article, "Meet the Neighbors" in Astronomy Magazine, April 2006, page 46. Information concerning the twenty closest star systems is shown in the table below.
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