A new super highway network running through the solar system has been discovered by astronomers, and it could accelerate space travel in the future.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego looked at the orbits of bodies in our solar system and calculated how they fit and interact.
Highways allow space rocks to travel much faster in space than previously thought – for example, travel within a decade between Jupiter and Neptune.
One day NASA or other space agencies could use these super highways to speed up travel time from Earth to distant parts of the solar system, but the team has yet to say how it will operate or how fast the missions will change.
Highways allow space rocks to travel much faster than previously thought – for example, within a decade of travel between Jupiter and Neptune
The team looked at multiples of space to detect these ‘space autobahns’ – these are connections of hidden curves extending from the edges of the solar system.
To understand how these curves intersect, we had to study the orbits of millions of objects, including comets, moons, and planets.
In a study published in Scientific Advances, researchers observed structures between objects starting from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which form a series of curves connected into these mysterious space multiples.
Space multiples act as boundaries of dynamic channels – i.e. links between gravitational interactions – enabling rapid transport to the inner and outer boundaries of the solar system.
Maps of the super highway between the outer edge of the main asteroid belt at 3 AU – three times the distance between the Sun and Earth – at 20 AU beyond Uranus
The first image shows a dynamic diagram of the magnified area and another created using the same orbit – showing some of the paths and structures hidden within space flying objects
‘We reveal a remarkable and hitherto undiscovered ornamental structure of multiples connected in series of curves extending from the asteroid belt to Uranus and beyond,’ the team wrote in their study.
This newly discovered celestial highway has been working to change objects for decades, as opposed to hundreds of thousands or millions of years in the open.
The most obvious curve structures are attached to Jupiter and the strong gravitational forces it exerts on objects caught within its influence.
The authors found that ‘the orbits in these multiples meet Jupiter at rapid time measurements, where they are converted into collision or escape routes and reach the distance of Neptune in just a decade’.
‘All the planets penetrate the solar system and form identical multiples, which allows for fast travel across a real celestial autobahn.’
‘It is not surprising that Jupiter triggers large-scale traffic in decimal measurements,’ the authors wrote in their dissertation.
This is seen in previous space travel, especially designed for transport with the help of Jupiter. Flybiz prime examples of two Voyager missions.
“Astronomers are well aware that gravitational aids can be operated by multiples,” the US team said.
‘Nevertheless, their widespread influence on natural celestial bodies has often been underestimated and explored.’
This is a map of the super highway structures around Jupiter – concentrated in a very confusing structure within the curves
The population of Jupiter-family comets, as well as small solar system systems called centaurs, are controlled by such multiples in unprecedented time scales.
Some of these bodies will collide with Jupiter or be ejected from the solar system – and one day come into the distant star system.
The structures were solved by collecting data on the millions of orbits in our solar system and calculating how these orbits fit into the already known space multiples.
To understand how spacecraft can make better use of new super highways, the results need to be further explored.
Jovian-minimum-distance maps showing the fast speeds of orbits around our solar system’s largest planet – triggered by its greatest gravitational pull
Since the focus is on those who have crossed the asteroid belt after Mars, the team also wants to determine how such multiples operate near Earth.
By understanding their role in the inner solar system, they hope to understand how they control asteroid and meteor encounters.
This will enable future astronomers and engineers to understand the future impact on the stellar dynamics of the growing population of man-made objects in the Earth-Moon system.
The findings were published in the journal Scientific advances.
Where are the Voyagers now?
Voyager 1 is currently 13 billion miles from Earth, traveling north through space.
The study recently sent back to NASA data that cosmic rays are four times more abundant in galaxy space than near Earth.
This suggests that the heliosphere, the part of space containing the planets of our solar system, may act as a radiation shield.
Meanwhile, Voyager 2 is now 11.6 billion miles from Earth, traveling south toward the galaxy.
The different locations of the two spacecraft allow scientists to compare the two locations in contact with the heliosphere galaxy.
Passing through the Voyager 2 interstellar medium allows scientists to simulate media from two different locations simultaneously.