Astrophysicists have discovered that there might be a way to further develop the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. This will let them explore the Earth-like planet circling Proxima Centauri in search for aliens. The Initiative was successful in briefly entering a foreign atmosphere and gathering as much data it could in the few seconds it spent there. However, astrophysicists will be looking to make significant alterations to support a longer probe.
The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative
The Breakthrough Starshot Initiative is the brainchild of Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. It worked miracles in launching gram-sized nanocrafts in the nearby solar systems. They have covered distances as lengthy as 4.37 light-years away in just a matter of 20 years. The aim of the program is to collect signs of life or habitable atmosphere.
In its mission to collect visual data from Earth’s neighboring planetary systems, the Initiative has met with many hurdles. Scientists propel the nanocrafts by laser. Hence, it can only graze the system for a couple of seconds before returning. It is during that extremely limited time frame that the aircrafts frantically take snapshots of everything in its path. Due to the strict deadline, it has only been able to relay back blurred photographs of some space rocks so far, Inverse reported.
A new study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters talks about a way to slow down the nanocrafts. This way, they can take longer in observing their surroundings and coming back with more comprehensive and useful data. Gravity from Alpha Centauri’s stars, which includes Proxima Centauri, will be used for achieving this feat.
A larger-than-life laser will be used to rocket the StarChips through space. As such, the nanocraft will follow a speed of 37,350 miles per second. It is roughly 20% of the speed of light. The photon particles emitted by the laser will be transferred to the sails, which will fold in once it reaches maximum velocity.
Disadvantages and Advantages of Renewed Initiative
However, the renewed program is not without its fair share of disadvantages. One of the biggest disadvantages is that the time to reach its destination will be cut back from 20 years to 95 years. The main silver lining is that it will be able to make use of radiation from other stars to slow down considerably.
Moreover, the nanocrafts can also slingshot themselves from one planetary surface to the next to collect data. It might take another 150 years to get back to earth. However, it is worth it if it manages to find aliens in any of the planets they visit. “The time for a few snapshots is only seconds, and if you miss the target, it’s all for nothing,” said astrophysicist Michael Hippke, reported National Geographic. “In contrast, if you manage to go in orbit around your target, you can stay there as long as your probe functions.”