What are your biggest fears? Snakes? Spiders? The Earth being destroyed by a cataclysmic asteroid strike? If it’s the later, relax, a top scientist has got you covered!
American physicist Dr. Matthew Caplan — who is working on this concept with a team in Germany — has explained on YouTube his simple plan to protect the earth from inbound space projectiles of the dinosaur killer variety – move the Earth (and the entire Solar System!) out of harm’s way!
Caplan’s plan is based on what he describes as a “stellar engine,” an improbable device that could be used to shift Earth trillions of miles, if it were threatened by a deadly asteroid shower or space explosion.
“Our solar neighborhood is constantly changing, with stars moving hundreds of kilometers every second,” Caplan explained. “Only the vast distances between objects protect us from the dangers out there. But we might get unlucky in the future.”
He continues, “At some point, we could encounter a star going supernova. Or a massive object passing by and showering Earth with asteroids.”
One option to avoid such mass destruction would be to move our whole Solar System out of the way using what the Munich team describes as a stellar engine. The megastructure could shift the position of the Sun, dragging Earth and other objects with it via the star’s gravitational pull.
Dr. Caplan, from Illinois State University, designed a new stellar engine concept which he has dubbed the Caplan Thruster. It’s a giant space station that draws matter from the Sun to power a rocket-like thruster.
“Once matter has entered the engine, it’s quickly fired out the back via a nuclear fusion reactor,” explains Caplan. “This creates enough thrust to push the space station – and the entire Solar System with it– to safety.”
In Caplan’s design, a second thruster fires particles back at the Sun. This ensures the device works like a giant tugboat, pushing the Sun from its current location to a new one. The device draws millions of tons of fuel per second using huge electromagnetic fields. It would produce a scorching 1billionC jet of particles capable of moving the Sun 50 light-years (around 300 trillion miles) within 1million years.
“This would be more than enough to dodge a supernova,” Caplan said.
It’s important to note that such stellar engines are just a theory for now, and scientists are a long way from building one. In fact, the materials needed to withstand such temperatures and forces don’t even exist yet.
But that’s not to say civilizations of the future couldn’t build one in hundreds or even thousands of years’ time. If it’s ever built, a stellar engine may help humanity explore deep space.
But for now, as a defense against an asteroid strike, it is about as practical and real as building a Deathstar to shoot it out of the sky!