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Muhlifain

Gamma Centauri

A relatively bright star (with a magnitude of +2.2) lying on the fringes of the Milky Way in the heart of the constellation Centaurus. Muhlifain is simple to find in the sky, as the long axis of Crux, the Southern Cross, points towards it. A line northward through the stars Acrux and Gacrux leads almost directly to Muhlifain in Centaurus.

The name Muhlifain means 'pair', but the reason for its original application to this star is unclear. It has been suggested that it was somehow taken from Muliphein, Gamma Canis Majoris, which lies in a quite different part of the sky. It is unclear whether this transfer was intentional or accidental, or indeed whether the similarity of the names is simply a coincidence.

However the name Muhlifain was derived, it is entirely appropriate for this star system, which resolves into a binary when observed in detail. The Muhlifain system consists of two stars, highly similar to one another, pursuing an elongated mutual orbit over a period of some 85 years. Each star is a white subgiant, close to the point of expanding into a true giant star.

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