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Robert Innes

10 November 2016

Today is the birthday of Robert Innes, the astronomer who discovered Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to the Sun. Innes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1861. The oldest of 12 children, he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society at age 17. Innes then moved with his wife to Australia, where he sold wine and spirits and began making astronomical observations. After making impressive measurements of binary stars, Innes was invited to work at the Royal Observatory in South Africa. In 1903 he was appointed director of the Transvaal (later Union) Observatory in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was there, in 1915, that Innes discovered a faint star very close to the Alpha Centauri binary system. He named it Proxima, and analysis by a nearby observatory confirmed that the star is slightly closer to our solar system than the two Alpha Centuari stars. Proxima Centauri gained even more prominence this year after astronomers discovered an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star.

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