An artist’s illustration of asteroids, or near-Earth objects.
(ESA – P.Carril)
A bonkers plot to move our Solar System using a giant device powered by the Sun has been cooked up by a top scientist.
The “stellar engine” could be used to shift Earth trillions of miles if it were threatened by a deadly asteroid shower or space explosion.
It was devised by physicist Dr Matthew Caplan and explained in a video from German YouTube channel Kurzgesagt.
“Our solar neighborhood is constantly changing, with stars moving hundreds of kilometers every second,” the Munich team explained.
“Only the vast distances between objects protect us from the dangers out there. But we might get unlucky in the future.
“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 destruction would be to move our whole Solar System out of the way using 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 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.
This creates enough thrust to push the space station – and the Solar System – to safety.
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 tonnes of fuel per second using huge electromagnetic fields.
It produces 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,” Kurzgesagt said.
It’s important to note that stellar engines are just a theory for now, and scientists are a long way from building one.
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.
“Using the Caplan Thruster, we could turn the entire Solar System into our space ship,” Kurzgesagt said.
“For example… We could orbit backwards in the galaxy and colonize hundreds or thousands of stars as we pass by them.
“It may even be possible to escape the galaxy entirely and expand beyond the Milky Way.”
While Dr. Caplan’s idea might sound far-fetched, it’s got a stamp of approval from some space scientists.
His work has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Astronautica.
This story originally appeared in The Sun.