NASA sounding rockets blasting off to assess Alpha Centauri

Two sounding rockets are launching from Australia this month, carrying experiments designed to measure whether the ultraviolet light coming from the stars of the Alpha Centauri system could be harmful to any potential life on planets orbiting them. The research will also teach us about how normal — or not — the sun is.

Alpha Centaurijust 4.3 light-years away, comprised two main stars, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B (which form a binary pair), as well as a third star, Proxima Centauri. Although no planets have been positively identified orbiting either Alpha Centauri A or B, if any do exist, ultraviolet light from their stars may have a strong bearing on whether they host life.

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