leland high schoolClass of 2025
- "If a hypothetical rocket was to be launched from Earth to Proxima Centauri B, the nearest exoplanet, what would be the optimal launch angle and minimum velocity for the rocket to reach the exoplanet in a relatively short amount of time?" with mentor Mark (Sept. 24, 2022)
If a hypothetical rocket was to be launched from Earth to Proxima Centauri B, the nearest exoplanet, what would be the optimal launch angle and minimum velocity for the rocket to reach the exoplanet in a relatively short amount of time?
Started Apr. 20, 2022
Abstract or project description
In the last 25 years, exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, have become one of the most exciting topics in astronomy. While sending humans to a planet lightyears away from Earth remains science fiction, recent technological advancements have made the prospect of sending a small probe to an exoplanet via interstellar space not only interesting, but also realistic. In addition to time and ample resources, developing such a probe and guiding it to a world beyond our solar system requires a deep understanding of the gravitational dynamics within our solar neighborhood. Here, we use Python to simulate a hypothetical rocket trip from Earth to the nearest exoplanet, Proxima Centauri b, which is approximately four lightyears (or 23.5 trillion miles) away. Our program realistically simulates both our solar system and the Alpha Centauri system, which hosts Proxima Centauri b, and allows us to depict a visual representation of the interstellar journey. Using data from Nasa’s Horizons System, we consider the gravitational effects that all major planets and stars have on our rocket during the trip. By simulating our rocket, we determine the optimal launch angle and shortest path required to reach Proxima Centauri b in a way that minimizes the amount of exhaust from the rocket. In this way, we determine optimal trajectories for a successful voyage. Our visual program will follow the rocket and explore the travel time, the effects that various initial conditions have on the outcome of our journey, as well as the orbital dynamics and interactions between our rocket and other large bodies.