(ORDO NEWS) — We finally have the technological means to detect interstellar objects. In the last few years we have discovered two of them, ‘Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov, and there are no doubt more of them.
So there’s been a lot of interest in developing a mission that could visit one as soon as we discover it. But what would such a mission look like?
Now a draft paper prepared by a group of predominantly American scientists has tried to answer that question and brought us one step closer to launching such a mission.
Part of what makes the interstellar visitor mission interesting is that interstellar visitors are so weird. Borisov acted like a normal comet when it entered the solar system, but ‘Oumuamua was a completely different beast.
It never developed the cometary tail that many scientists expected. It also demonstrated an acceleration that did not seem to be explained by radiation or other causes, prompting some prominent scientists to claim that it could even have been an alien probe.
The best way to refute such bizarre claims is to study them carefully. And for this we must have a mission that can catch him. But first we need to see it, and astronomers are already working on it.
The Vera Rubin Legacy Observatory at the Space and Time Observatory (LSST) will be able to detect anywhere from 1 to 10 interstellar objects roughly the same size as ‘Oumuamua each year, according to the authors’ calculations.
This is a lot of opportunities to find the right candidate. But what criteria should this candidate meet?
Most importantly, “Where does it come from?” While there is no “best” angle for approaching an interstellar object (ISO), it does matter depending on where we store the “interstellar interceptor” (ISI).
According to the paper, the best place to do this is most likely the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point. It has more than one advantage: first, it requires very little fuel to operate the station, and any ISI may have to remain in storage mode for years.
Once it’s up and running, it should react quickly, and another L2 resident can help her with that.
NASA’s Time Domain Spectroscopic Observatory (TSO) is a 1.5-meter telescope planned to be located at the L2 Lagrange point, along with more established telescopes. like JWST.
Despite its amazing ability to capture impressive images, JWST has a significant drawback – it is slow. It can take 2-5 days to focus on a specific subject, making it useless for ISO tracking. TSO, on the other hand, only takes a few minutes.
It can be supplemented by another telescope, the planned Near Earth Object Surveyor, which should be located at the L1 Lagrange point in the Earth-Moon orbit. systems.
In combination with TSO, these two fast-response telescopes should be able to capture images of any ISO that enters the inner Solar System that is not directly on a path along the L1-L2 baseline. .
Once discovered, the next task is to obtain the ISO. Some, unfortunately, will simply be inaccessible from the point of view of orbital mechanics.
But the authors calculated that there is an 85 percent chance that the ISI stored in L2 will be able to find a suitable object of interest. this is the size of Oumuamua in 10 years.
Basically, once we can detect the ISO, we just need to patiently wait for the right opportunity.
Once the ISI reaches ISO, it can begin close-range observations, including a full spectroscopic map of both natural and man-made materials, which could help resolve the debate over whether such objects are alien-made probes.
He could also track any outgassing that could explain the mysterious forces at ‘Oumuamua.
Undoubtedly, there are still many interesting things that scientists would like to understand about the first interstellar object that we visited.
But based on the calculations in this article, there will be many opportunities to do this and a lot of data to collect when we do so. Then it’s time to move on to the planning stages!
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