March 05, 2017

A Magnetic Field for Mars, on a Budget

Mars has lost the bulk of it's atmosphere in part because it's magnetic field is weak and only covers parts of its tropical regions. This has allowed the solar wind to strip away most of the planet's atmosphere other than the relatively dense CO2.

Therefore, one issue facing those who would terraform the red planet is the fact that if the atmosphere were built up through human endeavors, the atmosphere would immediately start to erode again, taking thing like the oxygen and nitrogen first. 

Giving the planet a magnetic field has been considered a far more daunting task than simply terraforming it, since to increase the output of the planetary dynamo would require bringing a large moon to pull on its core like ours does. 

This has...practicality issues.

One alternative is a vast series of cables built all over the red planet and powered by many gigawats of electricity. Such a system has been proposed for Earth to deal with a possible pole reversal.

However, scientists at Princeton University, have run the numbers and determined that Mars could be effectively protected from the solar wind by a small inflatable structure at Mars's Sunward Lagrange Point. This structure would generate a 2 Tesla magnetic field (that's 10,000 to 20,000 Gauss)...whatever that means.

"That's  less than one quarter of a typical MRI machine's maximum capacity."


Anyway, the magnetic field generated would deflect the solar wind around the planet, rather more completely than Earths field does, since the field is separate and doesn't leave the poles unprotected. 

This would, even without any further human intervention, result in the Martian atmosphere thickening on its own.

This makes any terraforming of Mars much more sustainable.

We here at Brickmuppet Blog are more of the Dandridge Cole, Gerard K. O'Neal  schools of space settlement, but this is a really neat development. A planetary settlement does have some advantages with regards to resources, especially on a place like Mars. 

(Interestingly, this probably can't be made to work with regards to Earth, because our Lagrange Points are not balanced between Earth and the sun, but rather Earth and the Moon.)


Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 09:11 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 363 words, total size 4 kb.

1 We're one step closer to gondoleri on Mars!

Posted by: Wonderduck at Sun Mar 5 21:25:27 2017 (UDOXQ)

2 1. On the first hand, once you're out of the gravity well, stay out of the gravity well.
2. On the second hand, planets are targets.
3. Gripping hand?  Gengeneer for freefall.

Posted by: Clayton Barnett at Sun Mar 5 21:32:43 2017 (ug1Mc)

3 Re: practicality issues. How massive, and how close (presumably a trade-off situation) would said moon have to be? Solar sails could probably be used to brake a largish asteroid and drop it into a lower orbit. Or nukes could do the same thing. Calculate the trajectory carefully and the asteroid become Mars' new moon.

Posted by: jabrwok at Mon Mar 6 09:57:32 2017 (BlRin)

4 The paper posits that you would put it at the L1 point, which is a fixed distance.  The enegy level of the magnetic field is, as pointed out, not very high, but presumably it does need a fairly large area.  The main question I would have: what kind of push would you be getting from the solar wind, and what does that mean in terms of making a large array rigid and having thrusters to keep it in place?

Posted by: David at Mon Mar 6 18:25:42 2017 (JMkaQ)

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