June 20, 2021


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Millennium Falcon-inspired technology could enable interstellar travel

Filming from Moss Islee SpaceportThe Millennium Falcon carries the adventurers of Tatooine and brings Luke Skywalker across the threshold into space. When the Imperial Star Destroyers are closed, Luke regrets Han Solo’s delay in jumping into excess space.

These calculations take time with Falcon’s Navigator Computer. Otherwise, Han explains, they can “fly straight through a star” or “jump very close to a supernova.” (Probably the same effect from everyone else – are supernovae flexible, too?)

Sky Accounts are essential to know where you are going. In Star Wars, they are implemented by ship computers or, later, reliable astronomical robots like the R2-D2. However, for the first time, simulations have been performed of the ability of an unmanned ship to automatically navigate interstellar space.

Although there are no ultrafast speeds in space, the simulations allow for speeds up to half the speed of light. Created before Korn Piller-Jones The simulations by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy may be our first step toward creating our “navigational computers” (or R2-D2s if they have a character).

Navigate like Voyager 1 and 2

The farthest object we sent into space is the Voyager 1 space probe. Sensors like Voyager update their position with the Earth using radar and radio signals. You can actually track Voyager Real-time website online.

The vehicle’s location is triangular using two ground stations on the ground and then the position of a shiny object that is known near the apparent position (in the direction of, but not near) the spacecraft, for example Quasar. This tracking system resembles a giant light-based umbilical cord that connects the vehicle to the ground.

However, these ships do not have their own marine computers or R2 units. All routing relies on connection to the ground. Once the spaceship is out of signal range or the signal is interrupted, the vehicle no longer has internal navigation options.

Sensors like the Voyager eventually lose contact with Earth and remain afloat for hundreds of millions of years. We may never know where they end up or who will find them – if someone was there.

Illustration of Voyager 1 transiting Saturn. Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Sail a spaceship with a pulsar

If we want to send the spacecraft into space, they need a way to navigate and make course corrections without instructions from Earth. One proposed method is to refer to known pulsars.

Pulsars are the remnants of dead stars formed as a result of catastrophic explosions in supernovae. When stars collapse by force, their angular momentum or rotation is transferred to an object getting smaller and smaller – think like a snowboarder pulling his arms back. These pulsars orbit at known frequencies over known distances.

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They can be used as interstellar GPS satellites to help locate your position in 3D space. However, there is some debate about how accurate this system is as you only have to rely on a few pulsars and space dust / gas, the so-called system. Interstellares are averageThis could lead to errors in the pulsars’ calculations.

So Biller Jones suggests a method as old as sailing at sea. Use a sextant. Celestial ocean navigation has been conducted for centuries. Ships use the sextant to measure the angle or “angular distance” between a star or the sun and the horizon and to calculate their position on the Earth’s surface.

A spacecraft deep in interstellar space can use a similar technique to measure and extrapolate the angular distance between the stars based on its change in position over time when the ship is attached to those stars.

Stars move when they travel through space for two reasons. The first is parallax, which is the perceived motion of an object caused by a change in angle of view. You can see this change of position if you keep one hand at arm’s length and look at your fingers with one closed eye and the other. Your fingers seem to be moving. We see the sky moving in a similar way.

The Millennium Falcon deck as seen from Disney World. Gerardo Moura / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

As our Earth revolves around the sun, we feel the change in the position of the stars. When we are on either side of our path, it is like looking at the sky with one eye open, as in the example of a hand. Six months later, we looked at the other side of the sun with the other eye. The magnitude of the star’s displacement gives us the calculation of the distance to that star in the parsec. (Um … Han Solo, are you attentive? Parsec is measuring distance.)

A star distant astronomical parsec appears to change its position in the sky by “one arcsecond” (a 3600)The tenth 1 degree in the sky) in 6 months of our orbit around the sun. One parsec is about 3.26 light years long. As with a moving spacecraft, a 1-parsec star is moving away one arcsecond per astronomical unit = average distance between Earth and the Sun = about 150 million kilometers that the ship travels through space.

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Unlike spacecraft ground observation, distant quasars will not work in this scenario because they are simply too far from space. The quasar closest to Earth is half a billion light-years away, so the parallax effect is practically invisible. Instead, the spacecraft will observe the closest and brightest stars in order to take measurements on its journey, as these stars show the greatest parallax effect.

The stars also appear to change position as they move across the Milky Way on their own. The closer we get to these stars in a moving spacecraft, the more apparent their movement becomes over time. The change in the position of the star appearing in the sky due to it Actually Movement through space in relation to a ship is called “yaw”.

A spaceship can distinguish changes in the star’s position from parallax or aberration. These two types of motion, parallax and deflection, could say two things about a spaceship that we need to know. The parallax gives us a real-time position of the spacecraft in a 3D space. The drift gives us the spacecraft’s velocity in relation to the motion of these stars.

For the system to work, the spaceship would carry a star map with known star positions and velocities already mapped from Earth, using data from star map missions such as Gaia And the Hipparchus. Only Gaia plots 1% of the galaxy … and that doesn’t sound like much until you realize it is 1,000,000,000 stars. If our spacecraft were to travel even a few light years in space – much farther than ever – this map is more than enough.

A navigation computer simulator

There are some assumptions to be made about the hypothetical spaceship we send into the universe that Bailer-Jones chooses for the simulation. Gaia can achieve accuracy at angular distances between stars of less than a millisecond. Really nice measurements. To be on the safe side, this simulation assumes that a spaceship can measure at least one arc second.

We don’t know how powerful the car’s navigation tools are. Note that the interstellar probe will likely be compact and carry other measuring equipment as well. More accurate angle measurements mean larger telescopes to navigate.

The spaceship can access the predicted directions and velocities of the stars relative to the spaceship using existing star maps. The ship measures the angular distances between a selection of these stars and a reference star always indicated by the sextant on board. In this case, this star could be our sun, but any star can be used, and that’s an important clue because the whole point of this system is that navigation will work no matter where you started from.

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The composite simulations placed between 0.1 and 10 light-years from Earth – a higher estimate of how far our first attempts at interstellar travel would travel. Remember that the star closest to our star, Proxima Centauri, is only 4.2 light years away. That would be cool too

The ship is also simulated at speeds from 0 to 500 km / s and relatively (roughly the speed of light) up to 0.5 ° C (0.5 times the speed of light – not 0.5) past light’s speed). If we were to go to another solar system, we would likely have to travel at a good fraction of the speed of light, and the simulations would need to capture how this affects our navigation, if that were the case.

The Crab Nebula contains a pulsar in the center, through which it is possible to determine an accurate position in the universe. Shutterstock

Simulation results: Yes, you can know where you are in space! Second, Biller Jones defined the accuracy. For example, if the spacecraft uses 10 stars as the reference point with a 1-inch angle with a precision of 0.39 degrees, it can locate it with a spot resolution of 5AU and a velocity accuracy of 5 km / s. not bad. However, 5AU is a big bubble.

However, with the help of 100 stars, the car can locate itself within a range of 1.2 AU and determine its speed with an accuracy of 0.6 km / s. Additionally, traveling at relative speeds does not alter the overall ability of the ship to know its location. (We leave the problem to the next generation of FTL vessels)

If I increase the accuracy of the angular distance measurement to 0.1 arc seconds, the ship’s position can be measured with only 20 stars up to 0.3 AU and velocity up to 200 m / s. Any additional opportunity to increase the accuracy of the measurement reduces the number of overall calculations you have to make. We hope Han knows.

When I read Bailer-Jones’ research, I felt connected to our hypothetical little spaceship as it flew through the stars. This is way too far from super-space and we’re not flying fast enough to be worried about flying by Other stars, but we can fly in an instant to Other stars. I just hope the ship’s navigational computers get at least some kind of science fiction theme. R2? L3? harsh? … Chekhov? Anyone of these will.

This article was originally published on: The universe today by Matthew Simon. read this The original article is here.