February 4, 2023


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How do you get to other solar systems? Maybe you can fly like an albatross – NRK Nordland

Albatrosses can stay in the air for months without even flapping their wings.

To manage this, the albatross uses a technique called DS trip.

By oscillating between areas of fast and slow winds, they make the most of the wind.

They use very little energy and can fly long, long distances, says Magne Hosby, a professor at Nord University and a second professor at the NTNU Science Museum.

Now scientists will use the albatross technology in space.

In this way, they hope to reach speeds that humans have never approached.

Albatrosses fly long distances without using much energy. It can reach speeds of 130 kilometers per hour.

Photo: Vir Nandu/Unsplash

World records can be broken

It’s easy to get carried away at high speeds.

The albatross is 130 km/h fast, but nothing compared to what humans have achieved.

World Record on Earth: 1,228 km/h by “Thrust Supersonic Car”.

The fastest aircraft in the world: 3529 km / h by “Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird”.

However, the North American X-15 missile flew faster. 7274 km / h.


The Blackbird holds the world speed record in Earth’s atmosphere.

Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters

However, these records become microscopic in space.

The Parker Solar Probe robotic probe is currently undertaking a seven-year research project.

Before it is completed it will reach a speed of 692,000 km/h.

Thus, it becomes the fastest object in the world built by humans, and the speed corresponds to 0.064 percent of the speed of light.

Park the solar probe close to the sun

The Parker Solar Probe mission is called the “Touch the Sun Mission.”

Image: NASA

But one New research study Written by two Americans and a Canadian who believes this is only a fraction of the potential if we adopt the albatross technology.

With a DS trip, it seems possible for the car to achieve speeds close to 2 percent light’s speed After a year and a half the researchers wrote.

Or about 21 million kilometers per hour.

Voyager 1 at the outer limits of the solar system

Voyager 1 is one of two man-made objects outside our solar system. It maintains a speed of 61,500 kilometers per hour.

Image: NASA

It uses air currents

Even if the albatross flew a little slower, the researchers would use the same technique.

There are often waves in the sea, and in contact with each wave there is an updraft of wind. Thus, albatrosses get buoyancy all the way as they fly so they can cruise on stiff wings without flapping their wings, Nord University’s Husby explains.


The air currents associated with the waves mean the albatross can fly almost exclusively by floatation, Husby says.

Photo: Torsten Dederichs/Unsplash

Hosby explains that other birds can use wind currents over mountain slopes. These birds also fly almost without flapping their wings.

Like an albatross, they hang on rigid wings and can fly far into the air. Then you float away before you find a new ramp. It is incredibly effective.

But how will this be used in space?

with sails.

Animation of a solar sail in space

Solar sails have been tested in the past, including by Japan, but researchers believe the potential is huge.

Image: NASA

Solar sails rely on both light and the solar wind, explains senior advisor Tyler Jones at the Norwegian Space Center.

He adds:

Light has no mass, but it has a lot of momentum because it has a high speed. In addition, the sails can use particles from the sun with a lot of energy. When this strikes the sails it provides propulsion.

Do you think there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?

Still very far from other stars?

In the study, the researchers wrote that Albatross technique It could be an important step on the way to other solar systems.

By harnessing the energy emitted by the sun in the same way an albatross uses wind on Earth, a spaceship could theoretically increase its speed very rapidly.

In fact, the speed increase can continue until the spacecraft is 18 billion km away from the Sun. Outside this region, the energy from the sun decreases.

– It will be possible to create acceleration until it gets out of this area, says Jones.

But; How far is 18 billion kilometers really?

Let’s set the record straight.

The distance between Earth and the Sun is an astronomical unit.

At the end of the area where you can use the energy from the sun, there are 123 such units.

Voyager 1

Voyager 1 reached the end of this zone in 2012 and Voyager 2 in 2018. Then you look at the data that wind speed meters no longer produce results, Jones explains.

Image: NASA

But the distance to the nearest star is 268,000 astronomical units.

So, 268,000 times farther than our star, the Sun.

Jones stresses that there will be a long wait before anything gets there.

Still a bad escape plan

– What’s interesting about this research is that they’re looking at how to improve space navigation. How can we make the most of the speed of the solar wind?

Jones says they need wings as big as an albatross.

– They must have big sails. They will also take advantage of different currents and have wind in their sails across several streams at the same time.

Starry sky over a low mountain on the horizon

The stars in the sky may seem close, but they are far away. very, very far.

Photo: Patrick da Silva Sathir/NRK

Even at 2 percent of the speed of light, it’s a long way to go to the nearest star. so far.

– It’s 4.2 light-years away from the nearest star, Jones says, laughing.

In other words, escaping the solar system isn’t a very good plan right now.

– but this means that you can get to, say, Neptune and Pluto much faster in a much shorter time.

Image of Neptune from 1989. The image was taken by the Voyager 2 space probe.

Voyager 2 took this photo of Neptune in 1989. With new technology, it may take much less time to reach the planet.

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Kevin M. Gill

Is this the most promising way to get to space as fast as possible?

The constant thrust from the sun provides free energy. Over a few years there will be a lot to say – and the acceleration will be great. If you’re going to do research far out into the solar system and the budget is tight, this is a very promising technology.

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