Space

NASA plans to explore Alpha Centauri for extraterrestrial life

Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri is the neighbouring star system to the Earth, may be home to some small, Earth-like planets which have been neglected so far, scientists say. This star system is positioned in the constellation of Centaurus at a distance of 4.3 light-years from Earth. It has three stars -Centauri A, Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri.

The project will need technology that does not yet exist, but Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory might just be able to pull it off in time. “It’s very nebulous,” says Anthony Freeman at JPL, who presented the mission concept at the 2017 American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, last week. The project is as yet unnamed, and the technology required to get a craft there does not exist yet, but the projected launch date would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first moon landing.

The ambitious mission would need a craft that would need to travel at a minimum of 10 percent of the speed of light. The Nasa plan is the result of a 2016 funding bill that mandated the space agency to research interstellar travel, according to a report by New Scientist, quoted by BGR. The bill also describes spacecraft technology that can reach 10% light speed.

At only 4.3 light years away from Earth, Alpha Centauri is practically a next-door neighbour to the Solar System, and it consists of three stars, Alpha Centauri A, B, and Proxima Centauri. If Nasa or any space agency can achieve the 10% of the speed of the light target, it is possible to reach Alpha Centauri in just 44 years, notes the report.

The fastest spacecraft ever built, the Helios probes, can reach 250,000kmph and at that pace, it will take 18,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri. The star system, which is around 4.3 light years from earth, translates to over 40 trillion in kilometres, for scale. Other ways under consideration involve harnessing nuclear reactions, or by collisions between antimatter and matter.

There is a known exoplanet in the Alpha Centauri star system, Proxima Centauri b, which encircles a red dwarf star. Though, it has not been considered an ideal location for discovering alien life, as the star throws outbursts of radiation that make the situations inhospitable. The mission’s main goal will be to find out if there is any life in the star system. The probe will look for artificial structures, sources of lights going on and off, as well as any land modification that could have been carried out by intelligent life.

Though, the project is under consideration and is not confirmed yet. But we hope that NASA will soon find a way out to reach the neighbouring galaxy and maybe soon we will be able to hear about the signs of extraterrestrial life.

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