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Halo Drive: Lasers and black holes can launch spacecraft to near light

Future spacecraft can use black holes like powerful launch sites to explore the stars. light. Astronomers could look for signs that extraterrestrial civilizations use such a "halo" as the study calls it, seeing whether pairs of black holes merge more often than expected.

Author of study David Kiping, an astrophysicist from Columbia University in New York City, came up with the idea of ​​halo driving through what he calls the "gaming mindset."

] "Sometimes in a computer game you find a" exploit "that lets you do something that would be forbidden from the rules of the game, "Kippi told Space.com. "In this case, the game is the physical world, and I tried to think about the exploits that would allow a civilization to achieve a relativistic flight back and forth through the galaxy without the huge energy expense one can naively accept."

A key challenge for using missiles to fly through space is that the propeller they carry with them has a mass. Long trips require a lot of fuel, making the rockets heavy, which in turn requires more fuel, making rockets even heavier, and so on. This problem grows exponentially worse as the rocket becomes bigger. Instead of carrying propel for propulsion, however, a spacecraft equipped with mirror-like sails can rely on lasers to push them out. The Breakthrough Starshot announced in 201

6, plans to use powerful lasers to propel swarms of spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, the closest star to our own, with a 20% speed of light. 19659002] The spacecraft that sets the Breakthrough Starshot to launch is only the size of a microchip. To accelerate larger spacecraft to relativistic speeds – to a significant portion of the speed of light – Kipping sought the help of gravity.

The spacecraft now regularly uses "sling maneuvers" in which the gravity of the body, such as the planet or the moon, throws the vessels in space and speeds up. In 1963, renowned physicist Freeman Dyson assumed that spacecraft of any size could rely on slingshift maneuvers in compact pairs of white dwarfs or neutron stars to fly at relativistic speeds. (Dyson came up with the idea of ​​what became known as the Dyson Sphere megastructure that caps a star to capture as much energy as possible to feed an advanced civilization. damaging a spaceship by extreme gravitational forces and dangerous radiation from these pairs of dead stars.Instead, Kipping suggests that gravity can help space ships by increasing the energy of laser beams fired at the edges of the black holes. Ionic fields can also distort the paths of light photons that do not fall into the holes

In 1993, physicist Mark Stuke suggests that the black hole may in principle act as a "gravitational mirror" because the Black Gravity he could pull a photon around so he would go back to his source. "Kiping calculated that if a black hole moves toward a source of a photon, the" bumeraga photomer "will push some of the black hole energy. Using the what he calls the "halo" – called the ring of light, he would created around a black hole – Kipping found that even spacecraft with Jupiter's mass can reach relativistic speeds. "A civilization can exploit black holes as galactic dots," he wrote in a study accepted by the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, and detailed online on February 28 at the ArXiv Print Server

the black hole moves, the more energy to extract a halo from it. As such, Kipping focused primarily on the use of pairs of black holes that stopped before the merger.

Astronomers could look for signs that extraterrestrial civilizations use pairs of black holes for traveling with such an engine. For example, haloes could efficiently steal energy from such black hole binary systems increasing the speeds with which pairs of black holes merge over what you would expect to see naturally, says Kipping. His discoveries are based on amplifications of pairs of black holes that travel around each other at relativistic speeds. Although there are approximately 10 million pairs of black holes in the Milky Way, Kippi notes that few of those who have probably been around the relativistic speeds since they will merge quite quickly. He noted, however, that isolated, rotating black holes could also shoot a halo at relativistic speeds, "and we already know numerous examples of relativistic, rotating super-massive black holes."

The main drawback of a halo is that "one has to travel to the nearest black hole," Kipping says. "This is similar to paying a one-off toll charge to ride on the highway system." You have to pay some energy to get to the nearest access point, but then you can ride for free as much as you want. "

The halo drive only works in close proximity to a black hole, about five to 50 times the diameter of the black hole. "That's why you first have to travel to the nearest black hole, and [why you] can not just do that in light-years of space," Kipping says. "We still need first means to travel to the nearby stars to ride on the motorway system."

"If we want to achieve a relativistic flight, it takes huge energy levels no matter what propulsion system you are using," he added. to circumvent this is to use astronomical objects as a source of energy because they have literally astronomical energy levels in them, in which case the binary black hole module is essentially a giant battery that awaits us to touch it to work with nature rather than against it. "

Kipping is now exploring ways to use other astronomy relativistic flight systems. Such techniques "may not be as effective or quick as the halo-propulsion approach, but these systems have the deep energy reserves needed for these trips," said Kiping. Follow us on Twitter on Facebook

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