Astronomers discover Cosmic Highways allowing rapid space travel

A new superhighway network has been identified by researchers, which enables significantly faster travel through the Solar System than was previously feasible. This network can facilitate the transportation of comets and asteroids from Jupiter to Neptune in under a decade and up to 100 astronomical units within a century.

The technology could facilitate swift transportation of spacecraft to the remote regions of our solar system while also aiding in the detection and understanding of nearby objects that pose a threat of colliding with our planet.

In a paper published on November 25, 2020, in the journal Science Advances, researchers have identified a series of interconnected arches forming space manifolds that extend from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond, which create a new "celestial autobahn." These structures operate on a much shorter time scale of several decades, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands or millions of years characteristic of Solar System dynamics.

The arches are most noticeable near Jupiter, due to the planet's strong gravitational pull. Over unprecedented time scales, these manifolds control the population of Jupiter-family comets and Centaurs, which are small-size solar system bodies. Some of these objects will collide with Jupiter, while others will be ejected from the Solar System.

To discover these structures, the researchers collected numerical data on millions of orbits in the Solar System and analyzed how they fit within the known space manifolds. Further research is needed to determine how these manifolds can be utilized by spacecraft and to better understand how they behave in the vicinity of the Earth. These findings may help control asteroid and meteorite encounters and provide insight into the growing population of man-made objects in the Earth-Moon system.

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