Scientists Prepare Plans to Stop an Interstellar Object: ScienceAlert

Scientists Prepare Plans to Stop an Interstellar Object: ScienceAlert
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We finally have the technological tools to detect interstellar objects. We’ve identified two over the last few years, ‘Oumuamua and 2I/Borisovand undoubtedly there is more.

Therefore, there is great interest in developing a task that can be visited once we detect it. But what would such a task look like?

now one draft paper It took a step towards answering this question from a team of primarily American scientists, and it brings us one step closer to launching such a mission.

One of the things that makes the interstellar visitor mission interesting is that the interstellar visitors are so weird. When Borisov entered the Solar System, it behaved like a typical comet, but ‘Oumuamua was a completely different beast.

It never developed a comet tail, as many scientists expected. It also exhibited unexplained acceleration, radiative or otherwise, leading some leading scientists to argue that it might even be an alien probe.

The best way to combat such fictitious claims is to examine them closely. And to do that, we must have a mission that can capture it. But we’ll have to see it first, and astronomers are already working on it.

Vera C Rubin Observatory Heritage Space and Time Survey (LSST) will be able to detect somewhere between 1-10 interstellar objects of the same magnitude as ‘Oumuamua each year, according to the authors’ calculations.

There are ample 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 an interstellar object (ISO) to approach, it does make a difference depending on where we store the “interstellar interceptor” (ISI).

According to the article, the best place for this is most likely the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian point. It has multiple advantages – first, very little fuel is required to stay on station, and any ISI may need to sit in storage mode for years.

Once activated, it needs to react quickly and another L2 resident can help.

NASA’s Time Domain Spectroscopic Observatory (TSO) is a 1.5m telescope planned to be located at the L2 Lagrange point along with more famous telescopes such as the JWST.

For all its amazing ability to capture stunning images, JWST has one major weakness – it’s slow. It can take 2-5 days to focus on a specific object, making it useless when tracking ISOs. TSO, on the other hand, only takes a few minutes.

It could be supplemented by another planned telescope, the Near-Earth Object Surveyor, intended to be located at the L1 Lagrangian point of the Earth-Moon system.

Combined with the TSO, these two fast-response telescopes should be able to capture images of any ISO entering the inner Solar System that is not on an orbit directly along the L1-L2 baseline.

Once detected, the next task is to get to the ISO. Some, unfortunately, will be out of reach in terms of orbital mechanics.

However, the authors calculate that there is an 85 percent chance that an ISI stored in L2 will find a suitable object of interest of the size ‘Oumuamua within 10 years.

So in essence, once we’re able to detect ISOs, it’s just a matter of patiently waiting for the right opportunity.

Once the ISI reaches ISO it can begin close range observation, including a complete spectroscopic map of both natural and artificial materials; this could help settle the debate over whether such objects are alien-made probes.

It can also monitor for any outbursts that could explain the mysterious forces acting on ‘Oumuamua.

There are undoubtedly more exciting things that scientists want to understand about the first interstellar object we visited.

But according to the calculations in this article, there will be plenty of opportunities to do so, and lots of data to collect when we do. Then it’s time to move on to the planning stages!

This article was originally published by Universe Today. To read original article.

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