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Fritz Zwicky’s solar starship

4 Jun 2013, 20:06 UTC
Fritz Zwicky’s solar starship
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Here’s an unusual method of interstellar flight – don’t bother building a starship, just use the Sun itself to take you there.
In principle it is not quite as crazy as it may at first sound. In a sense, our Sun is already a ‘starship’, taking its retinue of planets, including us, on a journey around the Milky Way Galaxy that lasts 225–250 million years per orbit, moving at 230 kilometres per second. Just thinking about that motion makes me feel dizzy.
Taking this in mind, the brilliant but somewhat eccentric astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky once proposed using the Sun as an engine to take us to the alpha Centauri system in 2,500 years. His idea was based around firing particle beams or ‘pellets’ at the Sun to create a hot spot in the solar photosphere where fusion reactions could take place. This would lead to powerful flares and eruptions that would begin to nudge the Sun in the opposite direction. Of course, letting off flares could potentially be hazardous, should a massive coronal mass ejection be accidentally be pointed towards Earth.
Above: The Sun, imaged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Details of Zwicky’s scheme are scant, appearing in his ...

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