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NASA may send probe to nearby exoplanet by 2069

Although most of the technology NASA needs for such a mission does not exist yet, it could involve travelling at one-tenth the speed of light.

The new mission will try to find signs of life on other planets

Washington, Dec 20: To look for signs of life beyond our solar system, the US space agency could send a spacecraft to the nearby Alpha Centauri system by 2069, according to a mission concept presented by a NASA scientist.

Details of the mission concept were presented by Anthony Freeman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the 2017 American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, the New Scientist reported on Tuesday.

Although most of the technology NASA needs for such a mission does not exist yet, it could involve travelling at one-tenth the speed of light.

The impetus came from a 2016 US funding bill telling NASA to study interstellar travel that could reach at least 10 percent of the speed of light by 2069, the report said.

The Alpha Centauri star system, located in the constellation of Centaurus at a distance of 4.3 light-years from Earth, is the closest star system to the Earth. It has three stars — Centauri A, Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) discovered in 2016 an Earth-sized planet that orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri.

New research, published in the Astronomical Journal, suggests that there may some small, Earth-like planets around Alpha Centauri A and B as well.

Right now, only one human-made spacecraft has left our solar system?Voyager 1, which launched 40 years ago and is currently traveling at about 38,000 miles per hour, less than one percent of the speed of light, the Newsweek reported. IANS

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NASA’s instrument to measure Sun’s energy

For instance, spectral irradiance measurements of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the ozone layer -- Earth's natural sunscreen

NASA to release two missions focused on moon soon in 2022. Pixabay
NASA's new instrument can measure incoming solar energy. Pixabay
  • NASA’s new instrument can measure Sun’s incoming energy
  • The instrument is called Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1)
  • This can help bring in an energy revolution in future

To continue long-term measurements of the Sun’s incoming energy, NASA has powered on a new instrument installed on the International Space Station (ISS).

Solar energy is one of the biggest energy sources in the world.

The instrument, Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1), became fully operational with all instruments collecting science data as of this March, NASA said.

“TSIS-1 extends a long data record that helps us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth’s radiation budget, ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, and ecosystems, and the effects that solar variability has on the Earth system and climate change,” said Dong Wu, TSIS-1 project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. TSIS-1 studies the total amount of light energy emitted by the Sun using the Total Irradiance Monitor, one of two sensors onboard.

Also Read: Why is the Sun’s atmosphere much hotter than its surface

This sensor’s data will give scientists a better understanding of Earth’s primary energy supply and provide information to help improve models simulating the planet’s climate.

The second onboard sensor, called the Spectral Irradiance Monitor, measures how the Sun’s energy is distributed over the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions of light. Measuring the distribution of the Sun’s energy is important because each wavelength of light interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere differently.

Measuring solar energy is one big technological developement. Pixabay

For instance, spectral irradiance measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the ozone layer — Earth’s natural sunscreen that protects life from harmful radiation.

“All systems are operating within their expected ranges,” said Peter Pilewskie, TSIS-1 lead scientist at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in the US. IANS

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