light-year, in astronomy, unit of length equal to the distance light travels in one sidereal year. It is 9.461 × 1012 km (about 6 million million mi). Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri, the stars nearest our solar system, are about 4.3 light-years distant. See also parsec.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.