Astronomers from Serbia have found that invisible structures created by gravitational interaction in our Solar System generate ‘space superhighways’ that allow objects to travel quickly through space. They say that these cosmic highways may one day be used for space exploration and to study comments and asteroids.
From their analysis, the astronomers found that these superhighways are made of several connected arches inside invisible structures known as ‘space manifolds’. These manifolds are generated by individual planets and interconnect in a way that enables objects to reach Neptune from Jupiter in decades rather than hundreds of thousands to millions of years, as would be expected otherwise.
Initially, the researchers became curious about the phenomenon following a paper that identified an orbital gateway through which different objects in space can travel faster than typically expected. As such, they began to study these regions of relative gravitational stability.
Using a tool known as the fast Lyapunov indicator (FLI), usually used to detect chaos, they were able to detect the presence and structure of space manifolds in the Solar System. In doing so, they collected numerical data on millions of orbits and calculated how they fit with known manifolds from Venus to Neptune.
In the end, they found that the most prominent arches were linked to Jupiter and most strongly with its Lagrange point manifolds. In testing these manifolds with computational models, they then found that particles were able to reach Uranus and Neptune from Jupiter within an average of 38- 46 years, with some being able to reach the planet in under a decade. They also noted that the majority of the particles were able to reach a distance of 100 astronomical units (Pluto’s average orbital distance is 39.5 astronomical units) in under 100 years.
"Combining observations, theory, and simulation will improve our current understanding of this short-term mechanism acting on the trans-Neptunian objects (TNO), Centaur, comet, and asteroid populations and merge this knowledge with the traditional picture of the long-term chaotic diffusion through orbital resonances; a formidable task for the large range of energies considered."