Give us a brake

Give us a brake research highlights SPACE TRAVEL Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. mnras/stx2834 (2017) force normal to the direction of travel. Duncan Forgan, René Heller and Michael Hippke analyse the radiation pressure and the gravitational and Lorentz forces as ‘photogravimagnetic assists’ of light sails, showing that charge is an important factor in trajectory — with both beneficial and deleterious effects. α Cen A Indeed, the authors show that depending on whether the magnetic force is repulsive or attractive, the photogravimagnetic effect could lead to greater acceleration and closer approaches (such as the orbit injection pictured), or erratic trajectories ending in impact or ejection. However, given that charge sources change from negative (our Sun) to positive (interstellar medium) to negative (destination star), the amount and nature of the light sails’ charge is Credit: D. H. Forgan, R. Heller & M. Hippke difficult to predict and may need regular monitoring. Their study bears particular Suppose we send a (tiny) light-powered relevance to the planning and resources of spacecraft to another star system. Moving the Breakthrough Starshot project that aims at 10–20% of light speed would not allow to send “ultra-fast light-driven nanocrafts” much time to collect data, therefore we to α   Centauri, and the nearest exoplanet, need to slow down the probe. Deceleration Proxima Centauri b. using the destination star’s photons and May Chiao gravitational field is one way, as well as using the stellar magnetic field. But, en route the light sails can accumulate Published online: 22 November 2017 charge, leading to a deflective Lorentz NATuRE ASTR oNomy | VOL 1 | DECEMBER 2017 | 820 | © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. Nature Astronomy Springer Journals

Give us a brake

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Nature Publishing Group UK
Copyright © 2017 by The Author(s)
Physics; Physics, general; Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
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