A new superhighway network to travel through the Solar System

They could be used to monitor and understand near-Earth objects that might collide with our planet.


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Scientists from the University of California – San Diego have discovered a new superhighway network to travel through the Solar System much faster than previously. What’s more, these superhighways could be used to send spacecraft to the far reaches of our planetary system relatively fast.

This newly discovered “celestial autobahn” or “celestial highway” acts over several decades instead of the hundreds of thousands or millions of years that usually characterize Solar System dynamics.

In their study, scientists also observed these routes’ dynamical structure, forming a connected series of arches inside space manifolds that extend from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond.

The most conspicuous arch structures are linked to Jupiter and the strong gravitational forces it exerts. Such manifolds control Jupiter-family comets’ population (comets having orbital periods of 20 years) and small-size solar system bodies known as Centaurs on unprecedented time scales. Some of these bodies will end up colliding with Jupiter or being ejected from the Solar System.

Scientists resolved the structure by collecting numerical data about millions of orbits in our Solar System. They then computed how these orbits fit within already-known space manifolds.

However, further studies are required to determine how they could be used by spacecraft or how such manifolds behave in the vicinity of the Earth, controlling the asteroid and meteorite encounters and the growing population of artificial human-made objects in the Earth-Moon system.

Journal Reference:

  1. Nataša Todorović, Di Wu, Aaron J. Rosengren. The arches of chaos in the Solar System. Science Advances, 2020; 6 (48): eabd1313 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd1313