How to convert the Solar System into a ship, and travel across the galaxy

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José Manuel NievesSEGUIRMadrid Updated: Save Send news by mail electrónicoTu name *

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In “The Land wandering”, one of his novels most renowned, the chinese writer Cixin Liu describes how the Humanity get out of the Land of a dying Sun, which threatens to destroy it. Instead of leaving the planet, in the work of Liu the human race makes its calculations and constructs a 12,000 gigantic engines of fusion which, together, manage to give to the world the necessary momentum to escape the impending catastrophe and get to the nearby proxima Centauri, the nearest star, “only” 4,2 light-years away.

But what if the danger does not come from our own Sun, but, for example, of the imminent explosion of a nearby supernova? Would it be possible in that case to move around the Solar System to prevent the extinction of our species?

The answer, at least in theory, is yes. In 1987, in effect, the Russian physicist Leonid Shkadov was first proposed by an engine is theoretically capable of moving a star. To do this I would use a giant mirror to reflect the light from the star back towards the surface, thus producing a thrust slow, but continuous, which would allow to reach speeds modest for long periods of time. The propellant of Shkadov could boost the Solar System about 100 light-years away in a period of 230 million years, the duration of a galactic orbit completed.

The propeller of Shkadov was only the beginning. In January of this same year, in fact, Matthew E. Caplan, a physicist from Illinois State University, proposed in an article published in Acta Astronautica a “motor star” much faster and more efficient than the Shkadov, able to move up to 50 light years in “only” a million years ago. To do this, the scientist proposed the construction of a huge propeller which, placed near the Sun, would use their powerful magnetic fields to collect hydrogen and helium from the solar wind and to use those elements as fuel. Of course, the technology needed to build any of the two engines is something that is, by now, completely out of our reach. In their respective works, in effect, Shkadov and Caplan were limited to show projects that were “scientifically possible”.

Next step, the “Pull star”

And now, Alexander Svoronos, of Yale University, has proposed another method entirely different from the previous “move” a star system full and out as well of any possible cosmic catastrophe. But not only that. Conscious that that project is not within the reach of our technology, Svoronos ensures however, in an article also published in Acta Astronautica, which yes that we could see how others do it. In other words, if some alien civilization has achieved the level of technology required and you decide to move your star, along with all the planets of your system, we could observe the process with our telescopes.

The idea is called “Star Tug” (Pull stellar) and it is, according to the own Svoronos “of a megaestructura that can be used to move a star system integer . And if the star system of any advanced civilization is going to come at some point to a supernova, may try to avoid it”.

Assuming that the star which you intend to move to have the same mass as our Sun, the megaestructura, with a weight of at least one fifth that of the Moon, it should be placed just 10,000 km of the star. In this way, the continuous “gravitational pull” of the object, even if small, would drag the star toward it, causing a gradual acceleration.

The huge structure, in addition, you should be equipped with a battery of thrusters, allowing him to move and, in doing so, drag the star behind him. Svoronos believes that this acceleration could prove to be, in “just” 5.300 years, equivalent to 0.1 percent of the light. To achieve the 10 per cent of the speed of light would have to continue to accelerate during 38 million years. In any case, a million times faster than the propellant of Shkadov.

The system is ingenious but has, in addition to the fact of placing an object so massive, only 10,000 km from the Sun, an additional complication. The engines of fusion of the Star Tug should be fed by material mined from the star. Something that perhaps could be achieved with giant elevators to space, but for now we do not know what type of material should be made of such elevators in order to survive so close to a star.

all in all, if there is somewhere “someone” who has managed to solve these complex technical difficulties, an alien civilization advanced, you could move your solar system to complete any part of the galaxy, to colonize other systems favorable that was encountered along the way, or even travel to a galaxy completely different. “In reality, says Svoronos – may expand to another galaxy traveling for hundreds of millions of years”.

As has already been said, the project is beyond the current capabilities of humanity. But Svoronos believes that we could search “Star Tugs aliens” that are in full operation. The greater part of the stars revolve around the galaxy in the same direction, but some do, suspiciously, in the opposite direction. We also think that those movements are natural, but what if they were not? If astronomers were to focus on search for the stars that travel against the current, and see that there are many, that could be the clue that something weird is happening…