Undertoad Wednesday Jul 24 02:07 PM
7/24/2002: Space highway
Voila the artist's rendering of the Interplanetary Superhighway. What is it really? It's a new use of something called "Lagrange points".
The Earth has a gravitational pull, constantly pulling things towards it. So does the moon and so does the sun. Lagrange points are places where all the gravitational forces are pulling at roughly the same level; if both the Sun and Earth are pulling, there's a point in space where both are pulling the same amount, so if you were there you would just sit there and not move. Or you could just move slightly into the force of gravity and propel yourself in a particular direction. Or you could just save fuel by only travelling in the areas where gravity is reduced by competing bodies.
The forces and the Lagrange points have been understood for a while now, but only recently have they come up with the idea of using the forces to help save fuel and move from point to point. If you were really good at it, you could use the points to manuever without fuel at all, but we're not that good at it yet. But scientists think that asteroids that have struck the earth have in fact used the superhighway (accidentally), including the asteroid that supposedly killed the dinosaurs.
warch Wednesday Jul 24 05:13 PM
Not quite a cloverleaf, kind of a hairy looking intersection to the west of earth, may cause backups. Remember: Safe driving is no accident.
MaggieL Wednesday Jul 24 06:12 PM
I just hope the Vogons aren't reading this thread.
bartman Thursday Jul 25 10:58 AM
as long as they don't make us listen to poetry, we'll be ok.....
Bitman Thursday Jul 25 09:46 PM
As long as you consider being vaporized into tiny particles "ok," sure.
I still don't know what to make of this .. we've been sending probes to other planes, surely they've known about gravity wells all along? This sort of thing is fine if you don't mind taking 20000 years to get there, but I'd prefer something a little quicker.
MaggieL Friday Jul 26 01:01 AM
I just don't think connecting the highway metaphor with Earth in their minds is A Good Idea. It will all end in tears....
Originally posted by Bitman
I still don't know what to make of this .. we've been sending probes to other planes, surely they've known about gravity wells all along?
Um....20,000 years should be way more than is needed to get anywhere in-system by this method. You are expected to bring *some* momentum of your own, of course.
This sort of thing is fine if you don't mind taking 20000 years to get there, but I'd prefer something a little quicker.
node Friday Jul 26 02:57 PM
So that's what a Lagrange point was. In a game called Freespace 2 they were basically Babylon 5-esque jump points - seems they're not quite that exciting or useful in real life.
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