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Gliese 876

Gliese 876, a small, very faint star only 16 light years away, is the closest star known to have a planet in orbit. Like the planets orbiting Upsilon Andromedae, the planet orbiting Gliese 876 is similar in mass to, or larger than, Jupiter.

Gliese 876 is very faint. It belongs to the group of stars called red dwarfs, which are much cooler and dimmer than the Sun. Unlike Upsilon Andromedae, it is not a naked eye object; it is, in fact, readily visible only in large binoculars or a telescope. Current thought in astrophysics suggests that such a small star is unlikely to have any Earthlike planets around it: a planet would have to orbit so close to the star that it would become tidally locked to it, with one side always facing the star (much as one side of the closely-orbiting Moon always faces the Earth).

On the other hand, we do have direct evidence for a large planet orbiting this star. Let's see what the sky might look like from this vantage point.

Renditions of Gliese 876

  1. Looking back towards the Sun from Gliese 876. The Sun appears as a 3rd magnitude star -- about as bright as the dimmest stars in the Big Dipper.

  2. Orion as seen from Gliese 876. Since Gliese 876 is only a third as far from the Sun as Upsilon Andromedae, many constellations still look familiar.

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