Scientists at the Interstellar Exploration Initiative (i4is) set out to figure out how many interstellar objects (ISOs) enter the solar system each year and follow predictable orbits while they are here. This research will allow in the near future to send a spacecraft to meet with one of these objects.
The study was carried out by several researchers from i4is, a non-profit organization dedicated to the implementation of interstellar flight in the near future. They were joined by researchers from Florida Institute of Technology, Harvard Institute for Theory and Computing (ITC), University of Texas at Austin, Technical University of Munich and the Paris Observatory.
The 1I / Oumuamua study in October 2017 revolutionized astronomy and the study of celestial objects. It was not only an object that formed in another star system, but its arrival and discovery suggested the presence of a large population of such objects. The detection of 2I / Borisov in 2019 confirmed what many astronomers had already suspected – that ISOs enter our solar system on a fairly regular basis.
Given that the ISOs were formed in another star system, the ability to study them up close would give scientists an idea of the conditions that are present there. In fact, studying ISO is the next best way to send interstellar probes to nearby star systems. Of course, any such mission presents many technical challenges, not to mention the need for early warning.
For future missions to meet them, it is imperative to know as much as possible about how often the ISOs arrive and how fast they travel. Scientists have tried to better limit these two variables. They took into account how the local rest standard (LSR) – the average movement of stars, gas and dust in the Milky Way close to the Sun – affects the speed of an interstellar object.
As a result, scientists found that on average, up to seven asteroid-like ISOs visit the solar system per year. Meanwhile, objects such as 2I / Borisov (comets) are more rare “guests” and will appear approximately once every 10-20 years. In addition, astronomers have found that many of these objects will move at a speed faster than Oumuamua’s. Let us recall that it moved at a speed of more than 26 km / s before and after receiving an impulse from the Sun.