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The Road to Alpha Centauri

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Abdul-Mateen Aderinto

on 5 November 2016

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Transcript of The Road to Alpha Centauri

Basis
-The closest star system to our sun, Alpha Centauri is _ ly. away


- Could we one day possibly visit it?


- Let's investigate
-Is it possible?

- Why?

-How ?

-Would it be a good idea ?

Alpha Centauri Facts
-Consists of 3 stars:
The binary pair
Alpha Centauri A and B
As well as a small red dwarf,
Proxima Centauri.

-Proxima Centauri is the closest (4.22 ly.)

-Alpha Centauri A & B orbit around a common center of gravity every 80 years

- Proxima Centauri: Orbital period around the other two of 500,000 years
Is it really part of the star system then?
Alpha Centauri A
-Largest of the three stars(the 'principle member').

-110% the mass of the sun, 151.9% the luminosity of the sun.

-Main sequence star with a similar yellow colour to the sun.

-Rotational period around 22 days (rotates approximately 2.7 km/s).

The Road to the Alpha Centauri star system
By: Abdulmateen Aderinto
& Mack Kary

Alpha Centauri B
-Smaller than Alpha Centauri A (the 'companion star')

-90.7% of the Sun's mass and 44.5% of the Sun's luminosity.

-Main sequence star with a more orange colour.

-Rotational period: 41 days (rotates at about 1.1 km/s).
Proxima Centauri
-Slightly closer to us (4.24 ly from the Sun)

-Much smaller than the other two (12.3% of Sun's mass)

- Too dim to be visible in the night sky

-One of it's planets,
Proxima b
is projected to be in the habitable zone.
Could there be life there?
Relative size comparison
How can we get there?
-Space Shuttle?
At it's max speed of 28,300 km/h it would take 165,000 years.

- NASA New Horizons Probe?
Travelled to pluto at speeds topping 84,000 km/h
Would take 54,400 years

- NASA Juno Probe?
Reached speeds of 265,000 km/h as it entered into orbit around Jupiter
Would take 17,157 years
Breakthrough Starshot
-Initiative announced in April 2016, led by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.
Also backed by Stephen Hawking & Mark Zuckerberg

- $100 Million research and engineering program
Seeks to demonstrate proof of concept for light-propelled nanocrafts to 0.2c

- Ultimate Goal: To use these nanocrafts to capture images of planets and other scientific data in Alpha Centauri upon reaching it in about 20 years

Breakthrough starshot (cont'd)
Warp Drive?!
- Faster than light travel?

-Proposed by Dr. Harold 'Sonny' White, leader of NASA's Advanced Propulsion Team who claimed that faster than light speed travel could be possible.

- Could be made possible through the Alcubbiere Warp Drive.
Alcubbiere Warp Drive was proposed by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubbiere in 1994.

Alcubbiere suggested that faster than light space travel could be achieved by distorting space time.
-White and his team have been researching the possibilities of warp drive since 2014 and even unveiled what they believe a warp drive starship would look like. (Below)
Problems with Warp Drive
-Major problem:
Energy

-In order for the necessary warp field to form, a region of space with negative energy density (repulsing space time) must exist.

-Science has predicted 'exotic' matter with negative energy may exist but it has never been observed and there is no evidence of it at this point.

-All forms of matter and light that we know of have a positive energy density.

-Ultimately unfeasible with today's technology
Main Considerations
Other Ideas
-Nanocrafts, Warp Drive, and are just a few of the many ideas thought of for interstellar travel.

Here are a few others:
-EMdrive
- Sleeper Ships
-VASIMR

Alpha Centauri a
Alpha Centauri b
Proxima Centauri
Why the interest?
Proximity

Possiblilty of Earth-like planets?
Proxima centauri b

Age
Approx. 4.85 billion years old
The sun is 4.6 billion years old

Satisfying our general curiosity
Who knows what we could find there?
- 2 Main components:
Nanocrafts
Light Beamer
Breakthrough Starshot Nanocraft
Components:
- StarChip
Taking advantage of
Moore's law
to potentially miniaturize a fully-functional space probe with cameras, photon thrusters, a power supply, and navigation/communication equipment all on a gram-scale wafer.

- Lightsail
Nanotechnology advancements could lead to the production of sails at meter-scale that are only a few hundred atoms thick and are at gram-scale mass
Breeakthrough Starshot Light Beamer
- Takes advantage of the rising power and decreasing costs of lasers, also consistent with Moore's law

- The Light beamers that would produce these lasers could potentially be scaled up to the 100 gigawatt level

- How much power is 100 gigawatt?
50 times as much power generated than by the Hoover Dam which provided electricity for 700,000 homes
Enough for 35,000,000 homes
Sailing to the stars
Considerations

- Feasibility:
Current applicable technologies
Costs
Policies and regulations

- Potential damage to the craft caused by space dust and gases
Creation of pits on surface of the craft (up 30% materials lost)
Melting of nanocraft due to collisions with larger objects

Alcubbiere Warp Drive
With there supposedly being an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of Proxima centauri, should we still visit it not knowing what we may find there?
References
(1) Byrd, D. How long to travel to Alpha Centauri? | Science Wire | EarthSky http://earthsky.org/space/alpha-centauri-travel-time (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(2) Cofield, C. How We Could Visit the Possibly Earth-Like Planet Proxima b http://www.space.com/33844-proxima-b-exoplanet-interstellar-mission.html (accessed Nov 2, 2016).
(3) Empak, J. Is the Nearest Alien Planet Proxima b Habitable? “It”s Complicated’ http://www.space.com/33915-newfound-planet-proxima-b-habitability.html (accessed Nov 2, 2016).
(4) Hoang, T.; Lazarian, A.; Burkhart, B.; Loeb, A. 2016.
(5) Kane, S. How Starshot will explore a nearby star - Business Insider http://www.businessinsider.com/how-starshot-laser-robots-work-2016-4 (accessed Nov 2, 2016).
(6) Kenward, A. Helpful Energy Comparisons, Anyone? A Guide to Measuring Energy | Climate Central http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/helpful-energy-comparisons-anyone (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(7) Sharp, T. Alpha Centauri: Nearest Star System to the Sun http://www.space.com/18090-alpha-centauri-nearest-star-system.html (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(8) Simonite, T. Moore’s Law Is Dead. Now What? https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601441/moores-law-is-dead-now-what/ (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(9) Skatebiker. File:Alpha, Beta and Proxima Centauri (1).jpg - Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alpha,_Beta_and_Proxima_Centauri_(1).jpg (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(10) Tate, K. How Breakthrough Starshot’s Interstellar Probes Would Work (Infographic) http://www.space.com/32551-breakthrough-starshot-interstellar-spacecraft-infographic.html (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(11) Tate, K. Alpha Centauri Stars & Planet Explained (Infographic) http://www.space.com/18097-alpha-centauri-stars-planet-explained-infographic.html (accessed Nov 2, 2016).
(12) Yirka, B. First test of Breakthrough Starshot interstellar probe highlights likely damage due to gas and dust Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-08-breakthrough-starshot-interstellar-probe-highlights.html#jCp http://phys.org/news/2016-08-breakthrough-starshot-interstellar-probe-highlights.html (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(13) Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star | ESO https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1629/ (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
(14) Breakthrough Initiatives https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/News/4 (accessed Nov 2, 2016).
(15) NASA. Propulsion Systems of the Future http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/travelinginspace/future_propulsion.html (accessed Nov 3, 2016).
- Approximately how far do you think Alpha Centauri is from our Sun?
a.) 3-5 light years

b.) 5-10 light years

c.) 10-50 light years

d) 50+
With current technology, how long would it take for us to reach the star system?
a.) 10^2 years

b.) 10^4 years

c.) 10^6 years

d.) 10^7 years
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