When Earth Has 12 Suns

Mankind’s artificial stars of the future

E. Alderson

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We are attempting to save planet Earth from the sun. In 1 billion years the star’s luminosity will have increased by 10%, causing a runaway greenhouse effect on the planet and boiling our oceans until Earth resembles its tragic sister planet, Venus. In 5 billion years this situation will become even more dire; the sun will reach its Schönberg–Chandrasekhar limit and will balloon into a distended, red giant star. At that point it may be up to 1,000 times more luminous than it is now, and its surface will reach where Venus is located today. Earth will either be completely stripped and melted by the sun’s proximity, or vaporized as it’s engulfed by the sun’s outer layers.

Whether for sentimental reasons or because we still depend on the planet to live, mankind has chosen to save the planet. This was the premise set up in my prequel article, When Jupiter Becomes a Star, where we explored the idea of moving Earth and then stellifying Jupiter as a new source of energy. In this article we approach the problem from a different perspective: why not modify the star instead?

The sun will become a dangerous red giant due to aging. But what if we could increase its lifespan significantly so that we had more time to orbit peacefully around our star?

Both the luminosity and lifespan of a star are dependent on its mass. Stars with less mass are typically able to remain in their main sequence phases for much longer so that a star with half the mass of the sun has a main sequence 4–8 times longer. This would allot us tens of billions of additional years before the star aged into a voracious red giant. Could we, therefor, reduce our sun’s mass to increase its lifespan?

The concept of “Star Lifting” was introduced by David Criswell, consultant to the California Space Institute. Star Lifting is about removing mass from stars. In a procedure he named the “Huff-n-Puff” method, a ring of ion accelerators would orbit the sun and exchange two counter-directed beams of oppositely charged ions, resulting in a current that would produce a strong magnetic field. This field would allow for two polar holes through which plasma could escape. The sun’s upper atmosphere could then be heated via solar powered lasers and particle beams, expelling solar…

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E. Alderson

A passion for language, technology, and the unexplored universe. I aim to marry poetry and science.