A recent solar storm, as well as the next ones which, in a new cycle of activity of our precious star, will not fail to occur, have proven it again: without its magnetosphere, the Earth would be at the mercy of deadly radiation and quite simply uninhabitable.
Uninhabitable: this is precisely what scientists and visionaries want to avoid, seeing humans eventually colonize Mars. Our dear neighbor seems to be a logical candidate for terraforming, despite NASA’s doubts, in particular thanks to the presence of water in abundance under its surface.
But it does not have the same shield as that which protects the Earth from the harmful effects of the Sun: without it, all efforts to make it truly habitable would be reduced to nothing. To move to ElonMuskVille, it will therefore be necessary to create an artificial one. How? ‘Or’ What?
Earth’s magnetosphere originates from its heart and a powerful dynamo effect caused by the rapid rotation of its ferrous and liquid material. Playing a spinning top with the heart of Mars in an attempt to reproduce this “magic” seems out of reach.
Humans could therefore possibly count on a set of giant magnetic machines, placed all around the planet, to create an artificial shield. As Universe Today notes, this is a solution that can be seen in some science fiction series, The Expanse for example; as the same site notes, it’s still science fiction: it seems very difficult to apply.
Led by Ruth A. Bramford, scientists therefore found another idea, brilliant and published in Acta Astronautica. According to these researchers, two solutions are possible to create an artificial shield for a planet: from its bowels, like the Earth, or around it. The first, as we have seen, seems impossible.
But the second, maybe not. Because around Mars revolves one of its two moons, Phobos: it is this satellite, which circles the planet in eight hours, that scientists propose to use to create an artificial magnetosphere in this red planet that the ‘we are trying to green.
Inspired by the latest (and probably the next) advances in fundamental physics, the solution is, from the surface of Phobos, to propel large quantities of ionized particles, then accelerate them until they turn into plasma. .
The celestial body’s rotation around Mars would do the rest: a ring of plasma would form along the orbit of Phobos and create a magnetic shield sufficient to protect the planet as a whole. Easy, right?