Scientists discover a superhighway network to travel the solar system

Shane McGlaun - Dec 14, 2020, 5:58am CST
Scientists discover a superhighway network to travel the solar system

Researchers have discovered what they describe as a new superhighway network to travel the solar system much faster than previously thought possible. Scientists say that these routes can push comets and asteroids close to the distance between Jupiter and Neptune in under a decade. The speedy paths can also move comets and asteroids 100 astronomical units in less than a century.

It’s possible these superhighway networks could be used to send spacecraft to the far reaches of the planetary system relatively quickly. Now that these networks have been discovered, they can also be used to monitor and understand near-Earth objects that might impact our planet. Researchers have observed the dynamical structures of these routes, forming a connected series of arches inside something known as space manifolds extending from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond.

The “œcelestial autobahn” can act over several decades instead of hundreds of thousands or millions of years that usually go along with solar system dynamics. Jupiter is linked to the most conspicuous arch structures, and the strong gravitational forces exerted. The population of Jupiter-family comets, which have orbital periods of 20 years, and small solar system bodies known as Centaurs are controlled by manifolds on “unprecedented timescales.”

Researchers say some of those bodies collide with Jupiter or are ejected from the solar system altogether. The discovery was made by gathering numerical data about millions of orbits in our solar system and computing how the orbits go inside previously known space manifolds. Researchers note their results need to be studied further to determine how manifolds can be used by spacecraft and how the manifolds behave in Earth’s vicinity.

Of particular interest is how the manifolds in the vicinity of Earth control asteroid and meteorite encounters. Researchers also want to investigate how the manifolds impact satellites and other human-made objects in the Earth-Moon system.


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