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Delta Pavonis

February 5, 2010

The astronomers who look for intelligent life in the cosmos often focus on stars that are like the Sun. After all, the Sun is the only star we know that has a life-bearing planet.

But stars like the Sun are rare: Only about one in 25 stars has a similar color, temperature, and brightness. The nearest such star to the Sun -- Alpha Centauri A, which is a bit more than four light-years away -- is justly famous. So is the second-closest Sunlike star, Tau Ceti, which astronomers scanned for radio signals back in 1960.

But there's another Sunlike star in the neighborhood that most people have never heard of: Delta Pavonis, which is just 20 light-years from Earth.

Like the Sun, Delta Pavonis is spectral type G, so it has nearly the same color and surface temperature as the Sun, although it's a bit brighter. So a planet that's a bit farther than 93 million miles from the star might have a mild climate -- one that would allow liquid water and some form of life.

Because of its proximity, Delta Pavonis is bright, so it can be seen without the aid of binoculars or a telescope -- if you head south. That's because, like Alpha Centauri, Delta Pavonis is in the far southern sky, so it's not visible from most of the United States.

No one yet knows whether this intriguing neighbor has planets, let alone life. But if it does, one of those planets could have residents who find our own Sun equally intriguing.

Script by Ken Croswell, Copyright 2009

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