Launch | Precisely determining orbital position of exoplanet
In order to bring a nanocraft to within 1AU of Proxima b or another planet in Alpha Centauri, accurate locations of all the bodies near the path of flight would be required. A number of existing and future surveys of targets for Starshot will provide additional information prior to launches. In addition, the early missions would help inform the optimal positioning of later ones.
Efforts are underway to obtain a better understanding of the ephemerides – the orbital positions at specific times – of objects that would affect a nanocraft’s the trajectory to Alpha Centauri. This includes an extensive effort with the largest telescopes in the southern hemisphere, including Very Large Telescopes and Gemini. Space missions, such as the GAIA Astronomical Observatory, are likely to increase knowledge of the astrometric positions of the objects within the Alpha Centauri system.
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- Dumusque et al. “An Earth-mass planet orbiting α Centauri B,” Nature, Vol. 491, pp. 207-211 (2012)
- Hatzes, A. P. “The Radial Velocity Detection of Earth-mass Planets in the Presence of Activity Noise: The Case of α Centauri Bb,” The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 770, pp. 133-149 (2013)