A member of the top 20 club, the twelfth brightest star in the night sky, Altair is a mere 17 light years from earth. Supposing mankind can someday travel near the speed of light, adding 2 years for acceleration and deceleration, it is a reachable star, but it is much more tumultuous than our Sun.

1.7 times the mass of the sun and 11 times its brightness, Altair is a type A main sequence star. Stars below about 1.5 times the mass of the Sun primarily fuse hydrogen atoms to form helium, while larger stars the nuclear fusion process mainly use atoms of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen as catalysts to produce helium.

Altair rotates once every 9 hours, compared to 30 days for our Sun. With its greater mass this makes Altair wider at the equator than the poles. Altair is north of the Zodiac belt in the constellation Aquila and is seen during the same time of year and north of Sagittarius.