A NASA team has started planning for an unmanned mission to Alpha Centauri – our nearest star system – and it could happen by 2069 although most of the technology needed to get there doesn’t exist yet. A 2016 US funding bill told NASA to study interstellar travel that could reach at least 10 per cent of the speed of light by 2069 and to launch a mission to Alpha Centauri. At that speed, a craft will take 44 years to get there over a distance of 4.4 light years using advanced methods of interstellar space propulsion.
Our solar system’s nearest neighbour could be home to small, rocky planets much like Earth, according to a new study. It has three stars: Centauri A, Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri and Earth-like planets may be orbiting all three. The unmanned probe’s primary goal will be to determine whether life is present there.
Yale astronomers have taken a fresh look at the nearby Alpha Centauri star system and found new ways to narrow the search for habitable planets there. According to a study that they conducted, there may be small, Earth-like planets in Alpha Centauri that have been overlooked. Meanwhile, the study ruled out the existence of a number of larger planets in the system that had appeared in previous models. Last year, the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri set off a new wave of scientific and public interest in the system.
Astronomers are investigating whether Proxima Centauri, the star nearest our solar system, may host an entire system of planets after they discovered it was surrounded by belts of dust. One Earth-like planet was discovered orbiting the red dwarf last year. It resides in the star’s habitable zone and is roughly the size of our own world. Proxima Centauri has been discussed as a potential destination for Earth’s first interstellar probes.