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Voyage to Pandora Cosmic Journeys - Voyage to Pandora First Interstellar Space Flight

  
Voyage to Pandora Cosmic Journeys - Voyage to Pandora First<br />
Interstellar Space Flight
Category: Science

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Duration: (00:21:08)

Uploaded: 2014-07-22 16:06:51

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    Voyage to Pandora ,Pandora is the idyllic blue world featured in the movie Avatar. Its location is a real place Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our Sun and the most likely destination for our first journey beyond the s...
    Voyage to Pandora ,Pandora is the idyllic blue world featured in the
    movie Avatar. Its location is a real place Alpha Centauri, the
    nearest star to our Sun and the most likely destination for our
    first journey beyond the solar system. Remarkably, its anti-matter,
    the science fiction fuel of choice that could take us there.
    Normally, its only created in powerful jets that roar out of black
    holes. We can now produce small quantities in Earth-bound particle
    colliders. Will we journey out only to plunder other worlds? Or will
    we come in peace? The answer may depend on how we see Earth at that
    time in the distant future.The year is 2154. Our planet has been
    ruined by environmental catastrophe. In the movie Avatar, greedy
    prospectors from Earth descend on the world of an innocent
    hunter-gatherer people called the Navi.Their home is a lush moon far
    beyond our solar system called Pandora. Could such a place exist?
    And could our technology... and our appetite for exploration... one
    day send us hurtling out to reach it?In fact, the supposed site of
    this fictional solar system is one of our most likely interstellar
    targets, until a better destination turns up. Pandora orbits a
    fictional gas planet called Polyphemus. Its home is a real place...
    Alpha Centauri... the brightest star in the southern constellation
    of Centaurus. At 4.37 light years away, its part of the closest star
    system to our sun. Alpha Centauri is actually two stars, A and B,
    one slightly larger and more luminous than our own sun, the other
    slightly smaller.The two stars orbit one other, swinging in as close
    as Saturn is to our Sun... then back out to the distance of Pluto.
    This means that any outer planets in this system... anything beyond,
    say, the orbit of Mars... would likely have been pulled away by the
    companion and flung out into space.For this reason, Alpha Centauri
    was not high on planet hunters lists... until they began studying a
    star 45 light years away called Gamma Cephei. It has a small
    companion star that goes around it every 76 years. Now, it seems...
    it also has at least one planet. That world is about the size of
    Jupiter, and it has planet hunters excited. Perhaps two-thirds of
    all the stars in our galaxy are in so-called binary relationships.
    That means there could be many more planets in our galaxy that
    astronomers once assumed.At least three teams are now conducting
    long-term studies of Alpha Centauri... searching for slight wobbles
    in the light of each companion star that could indicate the presence
    of planets. If they find a planet that passes in front of one of the
    stars, astronomers will begin intensive studies to find out what its
    like. One of their most promising tools will be the James Webb Space
    Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2014 or 2015. From a position a
    million miles away from Earth, it will deploy a sun shield the size
    of a tennis court, and a mirror over 21 feet wide. The largest
    space telescope ever built, it will offer an extraordinary new
    window into potential solar systems like Alpha Centauri. With its
    infrared light detectors, this telescope will be able to discern the
    chemical composition of a planets atmosphere... and perhaps whether
    it harbors a moon like Pandora.One prominent planet hunter predicted
    that if a habitable world is found at Alpha Centauri, the planning
    for a space mission would begin immediately. Heres that star duo as
    seen by the Cassini spacecraft just above the rings of Saturn. To
    actually get to this pair of stairs, you have to travel as far as
    the orbit of Saturn, then go another 30,000 times further. Put
    another way, if the distance to Alpha Centauri is the equivalent of
    New York to Chicago, then Saturn would be just... one meter away.
    So far, the immense distances of space have not stopped us from
    launching missions into deep space. In 1977, the twin Voyager
    spacecraft were each sent on their way aboard Titan 3 Centaur
    rockets. After a series of gravitational assists from the giant
    outer planets, the spacecraft are now flying out of the solar system
    at about 40,000 miles per hour. They are moving so quickly that they
    could whip around the Earth in just 45 minutes, twice as fast as the
    International Space Station. Voyager I has now traveled over 110
    astronomical units. Thats 110 times the distance from Earth to the
    Sun... or about 10 billion miles. But dont hold your breath.If it
    was headed in the right direction, it would need another 73,000
    years to travel the 273,000 astronomical units to Alpha Centauri.
    When it comes to space travel, weve yet to realize the dream forged
    by rocketeers a century ago.
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