(ORDO NEWS) — The reality is that biological organisms, including you and me, are not able to travel in open space. Even being inside a spaceship, we are exposed to the destructive force of cosmic radiation, which, in 7 years of travel, can turn our smartest astronauts into people who are not even able to talk, let alone move independently on the surface of another planet. I note that it is for this reason that many scientists do not believe in the reality that Elon Musk will send people to Mars in the next few years. Be that as it may, today the Sapiens cannot leave their planet. But our robotic vehicles, unlike us, are not susceptible to cosmic radiation, and therefore they can freely surf space. Right now, while you are reading this article, five spacecraft are heading for distant stars.
The Voyagers and Pioneers will soon be joined by the New Horizons interplanetary space station, which flew past Pluto five years ago. But where are these cosmic pilgrims heading?
If you recently happened to look at the starry sky, then you probably remember how majestic and motionless the stars seem. In fact, although this is not visible to an observer from the Earth, everything in space is in motion. The stars move relative to each other at more than ten times the speed of the fastest man-made machines. For example, the Voyagers and the New Horizons interplanetary space station move at a speed of almost 5,000 kilometers per hour.
Moving at the speed of a snail by galactic standards, our robotic vehicles will take millennia to approach the nearest stars. Recently, a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory performed calculations in order to find out when the Voyagers or Horizons will reach alien suns. The study was first published in the Research Notes of the American Astronomical Society (RNAAS).
To predict which stars the first man-made interstellar spacecraft will visit, you need a three-dimensional star atlas in motion to compare the trajectory of each star to the trajectory of a spacecraft.
I recently talked about a new mission from the European Space Agency, which is in the process of creating the latest map of the starry sky. The Gaia spacecraft collects data on the motion of a huge number of stars. The first studies based on Gaia’s observations were published in 2018. The latest dataset includes position and velocity information for a total of 7.2 million stars.
Using the data obtained with the help of Gaia, the authors of the scientific work combined the trajectories of these stars and the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft to determine the nearest encounters of the devices with other stars over the next million years. Yes, the journey will be long. As a result, the researchers discovered about 60 stars that our space robots will approach over the next million years.
A million years in the blink of an eye
Voyager 2’s next encounter with a star will occur in about 40,000 years. It will take a little longer for Voyager 1 and both Pioneers to reach other suns – about 90,000 years (Pioneer 10), 300,000 years (Voyager 1) and 930,000 years (Pioneer-11).
When the “Voyagers” and “Pioneers” reach other stars, from here, from Earth, we will not be able to see them. In general, making predictions about whether our civilization will flourish in a million years is incredibly difficult and hardly possible. But the mathematical calculations of the motion of space objects accurately describe the future. Of course, we all care if the messages carved into the gold plates of Voyagers and Pioneers will reach their addressee. According to the authors of the new study, the likelihood that aliens will notice the messengers from Earth and be able to decipher the message is extremely small, and by cosmic standards a million years is only a moment.
But where will our space travelers find themselves in two, three and even five million years? As the editor of the SingularityHub portal Jason Dorrier writes in his article, it is possible that Voyagers, Pioneers or New Horizons will invade alien star systems, just like the amazing Oumuamua and Borisov’s comet visited the solar system.
It is not known whether at least one of the five space travelers is destined to complete their journey in the hands of an alien civilization capable of deciphering the message and discovering our tiny planet. Perhaps someday, in the vastness of the infinite Universe, someone, having put the Voyager gold plate, enjoy the singing of Chuck Berry and Willie Johnson.
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