Procyon

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Procyon (α CMi, α Canis Minoris, Alpha Canis Minoris) is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor. To the naked eye, it appears to be a single star, the seventh brightest in the night sky with a visual apparent magnitude of 0.34. It is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main sequence star of spectral type F5 IV-V, named Procyon A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA, named Procyon B. The reason for its brightness is not its intrinsic luminosity but its closeness to the Sun; at a distance of 3.5 pc or 11.41 light years, Procyon is one of our near neighbours. Its closest neighbour is Luyten's Star, 0.34 pc or 1.11 ly away.

Procyon forms one of the three vertices of the Winter Triangle, along with Sirius and Betelgeuse.

Contents

System

Procyon A is a white star of spectral type F5; it is 1.4 times the mass, twice the diameter, and 7.5 times more luminous than the Sun.[1][4][5] It is bright for its spectral class, suggesting that it is a subgiant that has completely fused its core hydrogen into helium, and begun to expand as "burning" moves outside the core. As it continues to expand, the star will eventually swell to about 80 to 150 times its current diameter and become a red or orange color. This will probably happen within 10 to 100 million years. It is expected that the Sun will also go through this process when hydrogen fusion ceases at its core.

Like Sirius B, Procyon's companion is a white dwarf that was inferred from astrometric data long before it was observed. Its existence had been postulated by Friedrich Bessel as early as 1844, and although its orbital elements had been calculated by Arthur Auwers in 1862 as part of his thesis,[6] Procyon B was not visually confirmed until 1896 when John Martin Schaeberle observed it at the predicted position using the 36-inch refractor at Lick Observatory.[7] It is even more difficult to observe from Earth than Sirius B, due to a greater apparent magnitude difference and smaller angular separation from its primary. The average separation of the two components is 15 AUs, a little less than the distance between Uranus and the Sun, though the eccentric orbit carries them as close as 9 AUs and as far as 21.[5]

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