JAN 20, 2017 7:24 AM PST

Remember Those Breakthrough Initiatives for Exploring Proxima Centauri?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

You probably remember the Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which was proposed by billionaire Yuri Milner and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking months ago, an initiated that was supposed to be the first ever attempt to send spacecraft to another star system around 4.6 light years away from Earth.

Breakthrough Starshot, an initiative that sounds like something from science fiction, may soon have some targets in mind thanks to funding from the ESO that will improve exoplanet-finding tools here on Earth.

Image Credit: Breakthrough

At this distance, it would take forever to send a full-sized spacecraft like New Horizons there, but Breakthrough Starshot aims to do it in the near future by sending microspacecraft there at 20% of the speed of light by utilizing the power of lasers and laser sails.

While it was just a concept at that point in time, a new agreement with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) could help greatly in bringing this dicey concept to life by the year 2030. Then, following a launch, it would take an additional two decades to arrive there. That said, the entite mission could hopefully be conducted and concluded during the current generation of mankind.

The only target we have right now is Proxima b, a dim little exoplanet much like Earth that’s orbiting its host star Proxima Centauri, which is the third and dimmest star of the Alpha Centauri system that the mission has its sighted dialed in to. Of course, we want to find more than one target, that way we have more than one exoplanet to study and we can learn as much as possible from a single mission.

The agreement with the ESO would upgrade the Very Large Telescope (VLT) Imager found in Chile, making it more effective at spotting exoplanets in the region, or special targets that we can aim for. This will make looking for exoplanet targets for Breakthrough Starshot much easier, and the observations are expected to begin around 2019.

There is undoubtedly a lot of work to be done, as nothing like this has ever been achieved before. This will be the fastest-traveling spacecraft ever made by mankind, despite the fact that they’re still micro-sized. They’ll also be able to observe these distant bodies and send back information, despite how far away they would be.

Because there’s a high risk of many of these fast-traveling micro spacecraft being obliterated by space dust and space rocks, many of them are going to be sent, rather than just one. In fact, a whole array will be launched into space via a special enclosing capsule, and then a powerful laser beam from the Earth will be fired at them to activate their laser sails and get them going.

You can see how this wonderful technology works in Milner's presentation below:

While something like this has never been done before, it should be very interesting to see if it yields spectacular results or not. For the time being, however, we’ll have to just rely on the large clunky spacecraft that can only get as far as our own Solar System; a major boundary that we have trouble surpassing because of its vast size and the time required to reach its outer edges.

Source: ESO

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
FEB 04, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
FEB 04, 2020
A Gamma-Ray Burst Like Nothing Else Before
Gamma-ray bursts (GRB) are among the most explosive and energetic celestial events that have been observed by astronomer ...
FEB 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 09, 2020
NASA's Christina Koch Returns From Space After Shattering Records
NASA astronaut Christina Koch set a new record at the end of 2019 when she spent more consecutive days in space than any ...
MAR 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
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 ...
APR 10, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
APR 10, 2020
Discovery on solar interstellar magnetic field
New information on the solar neighborhood has allowed researchers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Un ...
MAY 12, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 12, 2020
Here's What Would Happen if You Fired a Gun in Outer Space
Many of the world’s greatest science fiction films depict massive battles in outer space between starships and eve ...
MAY 30, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 30, 2020
SpaceX Crewed Demo-2 Mission Lifts Astronauts Into Space From U.S. Soil
Following a cancelled rocket launch opportunity this past Wednesday due to unfavorable weather conditions, SpaceX and NA ...
Loading Comments...