OCT 01, 2018 07:21 PM PDT

Getting to Alpha Centauri Won't Be Easy, But...

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Alpha Centauri is one of our closest stellar neighbors at just 4.22 light years away, and astronomers think there’s an exoplanet orbiting the host star with the potential to support life.

To date, humankind has never sent any spacecraft to another stellar system, but astronomers hope to change that in the future, perhaps starting with Alpha Centauri.

Modern spacecraft propulsion systems are much too slow to send a probe to Alpha Centauri in a single lifetime, but light sail technology promises to change that. Breakthrough Starshot is one such initiative, and it involves sending a tiny probe to Alpha Centauri at 20% of the speed of light with light sails and lasers.

The idea here is that shining a powerful laser beam at the light sail will generate thrust as the charged particles bombard the light sail. More importantly, the probe would be so lightweight that it would pick up speed very quickly.

There’s a long way to go to get to Alpha Centauri, and astronomers have no idea what obstacles reside between our nearest stellar neighbor and us. For that reason, the plan would be to fire off several of these tiny probes at once to increase our odds of at least one probe arriving at its destination safely.

Will it work? No one knows; but we’ll never find out unless we try, which is why brilliant minds are already looking into ways to make Breakthrough Starshot a reality.  

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 13, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 13, 2019
Why Does a Solar Cycle Last for 11 Years? Scientists Might Have Found the Answer
About every 11 years our Sun undergoes a solar cycle, also known as the solar magnetic activity cycle. Since its first discovery in the mid-19th-century, a...
DEC 13, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 13, 2019
Here's Why NASA's Upcoming Dragonfly Mission is So Exciting
NASA’s had an interest in Saturn’s moon Titan for a very long time. Previous space-centric missions including Cassini-Huygens and Voyager 2 mad...
DEC 13, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 13, 2019
NASA Assembles Final Sections of SLS Rocket Stage
NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has seen delays time and time again due to several miscellaneous financial and manufacturing quandar...
DEC 13, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 13, 2019
Astronomers Find At Least 20 More Moons Orbiting Saturn
Just this past week, Saturn overtook Jupiter as the planet in our solar system with the highest number of moons. Researchers from the Carnegie Institution...
DEC 13, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 13, 2019
ESA's Solar Orbiter is Nearly Ready to Launch
Move over Parker Solar Probe, there’s a new Sun-orbiting spacecraft in town. The European Space Agency has completed the assembly of the Solar Orbite...
DEC 13, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 13, 2019
SpaceX's Starship Will Be a Game Changer for Deep Space
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly caught wind about SpaceX’s ambitious Starship project. Starship is still very...
Loading Comments...