Modern “celestial autobahn” could lead to faster space travel in the future

On Earth, motorways allow people to get from one place to another in a shorter time. In our solar system, space-generated emissions on the planet act as highways where small asteroids, comets, and spacecraft, can stop the flow of a space-like hypothetical jet. But what is this network of celestial highways like in our own solar system – and how fast can one get from, say, Jupiter to Neptune by benefiting from one of these exchanges?

These are questions that various astronauts are constantly working on to better answer, and according to a recent study published in Science Advances a novel network of these exchanges has been found extending from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond. Together, the structure of these extensions can be seen as “celestial autobahn” in our solar system.

“We have seen some trails moving from Jupiter to Neptune in less than 10 years,” Nataša Todorović, a research associate at the Belgrade Astronomical Observatory and the study’s principal investigator, told Salon via email . Even more interestingly, Todorović said: “I believe he could travel a place faster.”

As would be expected, the strongest exchanges found are linked to Jupiter because of the mass of the planet, according to the study. Interestingly, “these strong Jupiter-linked exchanges have deep control over small bodies over a previously unproven range of three-body energy,” Todorović and the study’s co-authors conclude. note. In other words, they are expected to have a lot of impact in space.

“The new thing here is that we looked at the global structure of such an expansion, in terms of their land in the solar system,” Todorović explained. “We have seen that manifolds created by Jupiter extend to the outer limit of the solar system, beyond Neptune.”

To put that in perspective, Neptune is the farthest planet from the sun in our solar system; it orbits the sun every 164.8 years on average. Saturn is 2,313,267,138 miles from Neptune. These highways provide short travel times for such long distances.

Todorović, stressed the fragility of these celestial networks.

“But we should not neglect the strong chaotic environment, meaning that this course could easily change; finding a reliable fast travel route would require a systematic study of a larger sample of orbits,” Todorović said.

Aaron Rosengren, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California-San Diego and co-researcher on the paper, told Salon via email that the appropriate simulation of their discovery is ” A particularly powerful “gulf” or jet stream of space, allowing faster and more cost-effective transportation throughout the Solar System. “

There are very complex changes in form, Todorović explained. Technically speaking, they are energy surfaces that emerge from the gravitational interactions between planets and the Sun or moon. Todorović said manifolds come from “stability points,” or Lagrange points on a planet.

“However, we cannot see them in their entirety, because we humans are limited to 2D-3D shapes,” Todorović explained. “Manifolds coming from different planets can overlap, allowing the transition between them; in some way, this allows planets to be connected through these exchanges, in the sense that something could travel from one planet to another. “

The researchers made this discovery using a tool called the Lyapunov fast signal (FLI), which is usually used to detect chaos in the universe (attached to manifolds) .

“Here,” the researchers wrote in the paper, “we use the FLI to find the global presence and structure of space expansion, and to capture instability that works on orbital time scales; and that is, we use this sensitive and well – established numerical tool to “define general aspects of rapid transport within the Solar System.”

Although the idea of ​​manifolds is nothing new, and has been used in space travel before, Todorović’s study reveals more details about this celestial autobahn created by Jupiter that may lead to more information about nature. of comets that came beyond Neptune – and our Solar system, like the famous `Oumuamua system. As you may recall, Oumuamua caught the attention of scientists around the world in October 2017 because it had some strange buildings that suggested it could be an alien spaceship, but it turned out to be an intersex visitor.

“These channels are important in spacecraft navigation and also explain the erratic nature of comets signals coming from the edge of the solar system and getting close to the Sun,” said Avi Loeb, chair of the astronomy department. Harvard, to Salon via e – mail. “It may also help to understand the extent to which objects have been extracted from the solar system to an interspecific space. “