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Space & Astronomy

'Star Chip' could reach Earth 2.0 in 20 years

By T.K. Randall
June 21, 2017 · Comment icon 20 comments

Can a probe the size of a postage stamp reach Alpha Centauri ? Image Credit: Breakthrough Starshot
Stephen Hawking is hoping to send a space probe to a potentially habitable world around Alpha Centauri.
During a speech at the Starmus Festival in Norway this week, the world-famous physicist described a new type of miniature spacecraft called a Star Chip that could soon make it possible to acquire close-up images of the nearest extrasolar planets within a matter of decades.

Measuring mere centimeters in size and equipped with a solar sail, these tiny probes would be propelled forward by a laser beam fired from the surface of the Earth.

Under the right conditions they might even be able to reach up to one-fifth the speed of light.
"Such a system could reach Mars in less than an hour, reach Pluto in days, pass Voyager in under a week, and reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years," said Professor Hawking.

"Once there, the nano craft could image any planets discovered in the system, test for magnetic fields and organic molecules, and send the data back to Earth in another laser beam."

"Importantly, the Star Chips' trajectories may include a fly-by of Proxima b, the Earth-sized planet that is in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri."

Based on Hawking's calculations, if one of these Star Chip probes was to be launched today, we could be receiving data about the nearest habitable extrasolar planet in just under 25 years.

Source: Independent | Comments (20)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #11 Posted by Nzo 7 years ago
Let's do it... send a couple hundred thousand over there just to make we get there. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by BeastieRunner 7 years ago
Star Chip sounds like a Ben and Jerry's flavor.
Comment icon #13 Posted by MisterMan 7 years ago
Fast, I mean really fast, shutter speed.
Comment icon #14 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
Just throw a deep space anchor overboard. 
Comment icon #15 Posted by Noxasa 7 years ago
Telescopes track stars continuously without so much as a wiggle for entire nights so I would imagine the same tech would be used to aim a laser at a solar sail.  Probably setup a few stations around the globe so the a laser is always hitting the sail. What would be funny is if the Star Chip, once there, actually flew into the star before being able to take any images of the planet, or even flew past the star on the opposite side of where the planet was.  I don't know how they'd target the craft to fly close to the planet after 20 years of travel at 1/5th the speed of light.
Comment icon #16 Posted by TripGun 7 years ago
Millennial great great great grandchildren will be rulers of the world when the data comes back.
Comment icon #17 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
This is the same Stephen Hawking that can't make up his mind on whether we should stop looking for ET or keep exploring the new frontier?  This guy flips sides more often than Harvey Dent!
Comment icon #18 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
Fun fact, the spacecraft will perceive itself arriving 165 days sooner than we observe (21 years, assumes 1/5 c over 4.37 light years). There's also the pesky problem of return data transmission. We won't get any images back for nearly 5 years after it arrives.
Comment icon #19 Posted by kobolds 7 years ago
I think the main problem now is to build machine that can withstand 1/5 speed light . bullet - around 1,700 mph speed of light - 6.706e+8 mph   even bullet will melt travel at that speed      
Comment icon #20 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago

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