SEP 05, 2016 12:26 PM PDT

Breakthrough Starshot vs. Space Dust, Will We Get to Alpha Centauri?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Earlier this year, Stephen Hawking teamed up with billionaire Yuri Milner to propose a new kind of revolutionary space travel dubbed Breakthrough Starshot that would utilize lasers to send very small space probes to other star systems several light years away in as little as a couple of decades by propelling them at about one-fifth of the speed of light.
 

There are challenges to overcome regarding Breakthrough Starshot.

 Image Credit: Breakthrough/YouTube

With the recent announcements of a Earth-like exoplanet, dubbed Proxima b, orbiting its host star in the nearby system of Alpha Centari, this space travel method is looking like a necessary milestone to achieve if we’re ever going to study something outside of our own Solar System up close.
 
With the added interest in Proxima b all of a sudden, new research led by Avi Loeb, a professor of astronomy at Harvard University, has been carried out regarding the practicality of the Breakthrough Starshot idea.
 
A pre-print paper summarizing the study is available on arXiv.org.
 
The findings suggest that project Breakthrough Starshot has some flaws that could make it very difficult to carry out. The biggest problem seems to be something as insignificant as space dust. It turns out that it could have a very negative impact on the micro-spacecraft that are being blasted off into interstellar space.
 
When we think of interstellar dust clouds, it immediately comes to mind that a massive spacecraft would just fly right through it unscathed, but with Breakthrough Starshot, we’re talking about micro-spacecraft that weigh only a few grams and are traveling at exponentially faster speeds.
 
At these significantly faster speeds, the bombardment of space gas and dust particles could theoretically rip Breakthrough Starshot micro-spacecraft missions to shreds before they ever got close to reaching Proxima Centauri, or even the neighboring Alpha Centauri, to study the exoplanets contained within the system.
 
Of course, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The research Loeb’s team conducted reveals that although Breakthrough Starshot micro-spacecraft could become heavily eroded before getting to their destination, they may still function as expected.
 
Assuming we can armor them up enough to withstand the kind of bombardment they would experience, there may still be a way to use this plan.
 
Of course, there’s no way to really defend against larger space rocks that could get the way. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that many of these micro-spacecraft get sent to the system, and not just one, that way we can use the ‘power-in-numbers’ technique to try to get there regardless of the hidden dangers that could prevent us from succeeding.
 


Source: New Scientist

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
MAR 17, 2020
Space & Astronomy
This Supermassive Black Hole Ejected Matter Faster Than 99% the Speed of Light
MAR 17, 2020
This Supermassive Black Hole Ejected Matter Faster Than 99% the Speed of Light
Almost a year ago, astronomers released the first true image of a black hole. All efforts were focused on a supermassive ...
MAR 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
SpaceX to Send Astronauts to the ISS for the First Time in May
MAR 22, 2020
SpaceX to Send Astronauts to the ISS for the First Time in May
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program opened the door to the possibility that American commercial space companies like Bo ...
MAY 24, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Gives Green Light for Historic Crewed SpaceX Launch
MAY 24, 2020
NASA Gives Green Light for Historic Crewed SpaceX Launch
It’s no secret that NASA is working closely with private contractors like Boeing and SpaceX as a part of its Comme ...
JUN 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
China to Launch First Mars Mission in July
JUN 26, 2020
China to Launch First Mars Mission in July
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has announced that it will launch Tianwen-1 ('Quest for Heavenly Trut ...
JUL 13, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Star Cluster Born Outside of Our Galaxy is Discovered in the Milky Way
JUL 13, 2020
Star Cluster Born Outside of Our Galaxy is Discovered in the Milky Way
Scientists have reported the discovery of a vast stream of stars called Nyx in the vicinity of the sun.
JUL 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Reveal the Biggest-Ever 3D Map of the Universe
JUL 26, 2020
Scientists Reveal the Biggest-Ever 3D Map of the Universe
After five years of research, an international team over 100 astrophysicists from around 30 institutions worldwide has r ...
Loading Comments...