Starlight Alpha Centauri - brakes for a super-fast spacecraft

Starlight Alpha Centauri - brakes for a super-fast spacecraft

When discussing travels with a potential of 20% of the speed of light, scientists are worried that Hawking's Breakthrough Starshot nano-probes will travel too fast to do scientific research. Although they can use starlight pressure to slow down.

Last year, billionaire Yuri Milner and physicist Stephen Hawking announced a planned flight to Alpha Centauri (the nearest star system to Earth). The Breakthrough Starshot project is supposed to send ultra-light “nano-probes” that will move to a destination point of 20 years with an acceleration of 20% of the speed of light using high-power lasers.

A group of German researchers supporting the initiative are concerned that the scientific side of the project may suffer. One of the nano-probes will reach Moon in just 6 seconds. Therefore, they began to invent various methods of braking vehicles in order to capture the most important observations on the way.

“It was decided that, upon arrival, the probe would open the sails in order to halt the speed from the radiation of Alpha Centauri stars,” said scientists led by René Heller from the Max-Planck Institute.

“During the approach to the system, the braking force will increase,” they added. “The stronger the brake control system, the more effectively you can reduce speed on arrival.” Or vice versa, to increase it when leaving the solar system, using our star as a gun. ” The plan is to reach the star Alpha Centauri A, located 4 million kilometers, sneaking up at a speed of 4.6% of the speed of light. If to exceed, the probe will pass by and will not be caught by its gravitational field.

The correct speed and place will allow you to accurately get into the gravitational field of the star and turn around it. This is similar to how a spacecraft moves in our solar system between planets. In one option, there is a desire to get to Alpha Centauri A and look at its planets. But scientists are not against looking at Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri.

“The sail can be set up so that star pressure A rebounds to Alpha Centauri B. Then the sail slows down again and catapults towards Proxima Centauri, where he would have spent another 46 years (about 140 years after launch from Earth)

Astronomers will collaborate with the creators of the project to implement the initiative (if the project is launched at all). Now the mission is still at an early stage and there is no guarantee of flight. But astronomers are positive. “Soon we will enter an era when people themselves will be able to visit other star systems,” says Heller.

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