Scientists at NASA have found a new way to combat global warming: move the Earth to a cooler spot, farther away from the Sun. This may more than double the time that life can survive on our planet.
The Sun will increase in brightness in the next billion years, and if the Earth stays in its present orbit, all life will be eliminated. If we aim comets at Earth, it will be nudged out of its orbit into a cooler part of the solar system.
?The technology is not at all far-fetched,? says Dr. Greg Laughlin of NASA. ?It involves the same techniques that people now suggest could be used to deflect asteroids or comets heading towards Earth. We don?t need raw power to move Earth, we just require delicacy of planning and maneuvering.?
The plan involves carefully directing a comet or asteroid so that it sweeps close past our planet and transfers some of its gravitational energy to Earth. ?Earth?s orbital speed would increase as a result and we would move to a higher orbit away from the Sun,? says Laughlin.
Engineers would then direct the comet to pass close to Jupiter or Saturn, where the reverse process would occur. It would pick up energy from those planets, then swing back to Earth, where the process would be repeated. ?All you have to do is strap a chemical rocket to an asteroid or comet and fire it at just the right time,? according to Laughlin. ?It is basic rocket science.?
To expand the Earth?s orbit around the Sun at a rate that compensates for the increasing heat of the Sun it would be necessary to do this once every 6,000 years. Scientists would have to be careful to direct the asteroid or comet so that it passed close by the Earth and did not hit it directly. That could wipe out most of the life on our planet in an instant, as it did with the dinosaurs. ?This danger cannot be overemphasized,? according to researchers.
There is also the problem of the moon. Moving the Earth would most likely strip away the moon, and without the moon, the wind speeds on the surface of our planet would be too high to sustain higher forms of life.
Adjustments might have to be made to other planets as well. Recent calculations suggest that if Earth was moved, then Venus and Mercury would become destabilized in a short period of time. Scientists believe that it may be possible to move other moons and planets into more favorable positions, where their climates could support life. Humans could then colonize these planets.
?Our investigation has shown just how delicately Earth is poised within the solar system,? admits Laughlin. ?Nevertheless, our work has practical implications. Our calculations show that to get Earth to a safer, distant orbit, it would have to pass through unstable zones and would need careful nurturing and nudging. Any alien astronomers observing our solar system would know that something odd had occurred, and would realize an intelligent life form was responsible.
?And the same goes for us. When we look at other solar systems, and detect planets around other Suns?which we are now beginning to do?we may see that planet-moving has occurred. It will give us our first evidence of the handiwork of extraterrestrial beings.?
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