Category Alpha Centauri

How Will Humans Get to Alpha Centauri?

How Will Humans Get to Alpha Centauri?

Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a star in Alpha Centauri, just 4.3 light-years from Earth. With surface temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees fahrenheit, this particular planet would be inhospitable, but the fact that it exists at all raises hopes of finding another, more human-friendly planet within the same star system.

Just for fun, let’s say we found that planet tomorrow. How would we get there?

Top image, an artist’s rendering of the exoplanet in Alpha Centauri, via L. Calcada/European Southern Observatory

Some of the most ambitious spacefaring scenarios out there put a cap of 1/10th the speed of light on our maximum travel velocity. We’re obviously nowhere near achieving such celerity, but even if we could, the trip to Alpha Centauri would still take upwards of 40 years. By definition, that means we’re going to need a generation ship.

Generation Ship

Think o...

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How long would it take to get to Alpha Centauri?

 

starship_cropped
Alpha Centauri is the nearest star system to our sun. But, at 4.3 light-years away, getting there would be extremely difficult.
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Alpha Centauri: Closest star system to our sun

our sun

Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri
The third star in the system, a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri, is thought to be about 4.22 light-years distant and is actually our sun’s closest neighbor.

The Alpha Centauri system is said to be the closest star system to our sun. On our sky’s dome, we see this multiple system as a single star – the third-brightest star visible from Earth.

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Alpha Centauri and the New Astronomy

For much longer than the nine years Centauri Dreams has been in existence, I’ve been waiting for the announcement of a planetary discovery around Centauri B. And I’m delighted to turn the first announcement on this site over to Lee Billings, one of the most gifted science writers of our time (and author of a highly regarded piece on the Centauri stars called The Long Shot). Lee puts the find into the broader context of exoplanet research as we turn our gaze to the nearest stars, those that would be the first targets of any future interstellar probes. On Thursday I’ll follow up with specifics, digging into the discovery paper with more on the planet itself and the reasons why Centauri B was a better target than nearby Centauri A. I’ll also be offering my own take on the significance of the find, which I think is considerable.

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