A plan to visit Alpha Centauri

Historian: The European Southern Observatory [link] just signed a contract with Breakthrough Initiatives [link] to modify their VLT (very large telescope) to look for planets orbiting our closest stellar neighbor Alpha Centauri. ESO posted a short video explaining this [link]. Earlier ESO found star wobble evidence [link] for a planet named Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri in the Alpha Centauri system.

Physicist: Breakthrough Initiatives [link] has an audacious "starshot" plan to send gram-scale spacecraft to visit Alpha Centauri. These gram-scale spacecraft would be accelerated to about 20% of the speed of light by light beams pushing sails [link] so that the spacecraft can get to Alpha Centauri in about 20 years after launch. There are serious engineering challenges [link]. The idea is to use private sector money to meet those challenges. It is a plan which can inspire and there will be otherwise useful results.

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Bombing Proxima b?
(Image from ESO press release [link] announcing discovery of Proxima b) [link]

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