NASA Plans To Visit Closest Star System Alpha Centauri In 2069

Posted: Dec 22 2017, 10:47am CST | by , Updated: Dec 22 2017, 10:54am CST, in News | Latest Science News

NASA Plans to Visit Closest Star System Alpha Centuari in 2069
An artist's impression of a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri. Credit: NASA

The ambitious mission could help search for life beyond the horizon of our Solar System

For years, NASA has observed Alpha Centuari star system from afar. Now, the space agency is planning to send a mission there.

The Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our sun. At the distance of 4.3 light years, Alpha Centauri is considered our first stop outside our solar system. The system is made up of three stars, with two primary stars being Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, plus the faint red dwarf Alpha Centauri C, also known as Proxima Centauri. Last year, astronomers have found a clear evidence of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centuari. The claim stirred up a wave of scientific and public interest in the system.

Although the Alpha Centuari is not within reach today and the technology required to get a spacecraft there does not exist yet, NASA is aiming to launch its ambitious mission to the system in 2069, on the 100th anniversary of the first moon landing.

If successful, it would be the first mission ever to fly directly into Alpha Centauri system. To reach Alpha Centuari, a spacecraft must need to travel at a minimum of 10% of the speed of light. Even if this record-breaking speed of light could be achieved, the journey would still take 44 years, meaning the spacecraft would not arrive at Alpha Centauri until the year 2113.

“It’s very nebulous.” Anthony Freeman at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the New Scientist.

The mission would improve our understanding of a potential planet outside our solar system that might support life. If it was present, the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b could have a temperature suitable for maintaining liquid water on its surface - a key ingredient for life.

“We'll be able to characterize the atmosphere. We'll be able to see the planet, assuming it's not covered in clouds.” JPL's Stacy Weinstein-Weiss, lead author of the paper outlining the concept said.

So far only Voyager 1 spacecraft has been able to reach interstellar space. Launched in 1977, the spacecraft was originally designed to explore the outer planets in our solar system. Voyager 1 left the solar system in 2012 and still continues to send back data today.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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