The distances involved in reaching interstellar space are incomprehensibly immense and require astronomical amounts of energy. But researchers have now proposed a revolutionary way to travel between stars using ships taking advantage of natural phenomena to reach previously impossible speeds.
Scientists have already identified situations events in the universe able to achieve this.
I realised light sails with existing parameters can reach the speed of light if they are strategically placed
Professor Avi Loeb
These include hypervelocity stars and meteors accelerated by supernovae explosions.
Harvard professors Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb recently explored how interstellar spacecraft could harness the waves produced by a supernova explosions resembling how sailing ships harness the wind.
The study detailing their research, “Propulsion of Spacecrafts to Relativistic Speeds Using Natural Astrophysical Sources,” explains, it is possible for sufficiently-advanced civilisation to use the blasts of energy released by supernovae to accelerate spacecraft to relativistic speeds.
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Space news: Harvard academics have proposed harnessing supernova to reach near light speed (Image: NASA/Getty)
Space news: Ships taking advantage of natural phenomena to reach previously impossible speeds (Image: Getty)
Such spacecraft would be able to harness the explosive force using a solar or a magnetic sail, two propulsion concepts already explored at length by astrophysicists.
These concepts rely on the electromagnetic radiation generated by the Sun to create pressure against a highly-reflective sail, generating propulsion in a way not requiring engines or propellant.
Propellant is a significant contributor to a spacecraft’s overall mass, giving light or magnetic sail concepts the added benefit of being much lighter than conventional spacecraft.
They would also be considerably cheaper to launch into space.
Space news: Scientists have already identified situations events in the universe able to achieve these speeds (Image: Getty)
Space news: Hypervelocity stars and meteors accelerated by supernovae explosion (Image: Getty)
Another option is to rely on lasers to accelerate this kind of spacecraft, allowing it to achieve speeds much higher than what would be possible with solar radiation alone.
Professor Loeb is also the chair of