Magnetic Shield against massive solar flares

Solar flares are capable of causing widespread technological damage. Researchers outline a mitigation strategy to protect our planet by setting up a magnetic shield to deflect charged particles at the Lagrange point L1, and demonstrate that this approach appears to be realizable in terms of its basic physical parameters. They conclude their analysis by arguing that shielding strategies adopted by advanced civilizations will lead to technosignatures that are detectable by upcoming missions.

There was a large solar flare 150 years ago and it was named the Carrington flare (Carrington 1859).

Ff the Carrington event were to occur now, it would wreak significant damage to electrical power grids, global supply chains and satellite communications. The cumulative worldwide economic losses could reach up to $10 trillion dollars (Space Studies Board 2009; Schulte in den B¨aumen et al. 2014), and a full recovery is expected to take several years.

A Carrington-like storm has a ∼ 10% chance of occurring within the next decade.

A superflare with energy ∼ 10^34 ergs (20 times a Carrington flare) has been predicted to occur on the Sun once every ∼ 2000 years (Shibayama et al. 2013). In contrast, the Carrington 1859 flare had an energy ∼ 5 × 10^32 erg and would result in economic losses that are ∼ 10% of GDP0 if it occurred now.

A 100,000 tons copper coil with a terawatt of energy could act as a shield if placed at a Lagrange point. If a superconducting current loop were employed instead, the power dissipated would be lower, even when the thickness (and mass) of the coil is significantly reduced. The total cost involved in lifting a 100,000 ton into space would be around $100 billion, assuming that the payload cost per kg is $1000.

Some asteroids could have significant amounts of copper, but we will need to send some missions to analyze composition details to be certain.

There will be a lab test in Europe by the end of 2018 of a full-scale 320 kV MgB2 (superconducting) monopole cable system designed to transfer a current of 10 kA at 20 K for a power of up to 3.2 GW. The cable under study has the same geometry (18 MgB2 strands helically wound around a copper core) and uses the same wire layout as those developed for the CERN HL-LHC project. In addition, it incorporates all features required for future operation in the grid. The laboratory test of the system is planned by end 2018.

A CERN superconducting links project has been approved for integration in the LHC (large hadron collider) machine in 2024, when all hardware associated with the HL-LHC project will be installed in the LHC underground areas. The total quantity of MgB2 wire required for the series production of the superconducting links is about 1000 km.

2 thoughts on “Magnetic Shield against massive solar flares”

  1. Seems like it would be far cheaper and more reliable to put coils at the poles to augment the Earth’s natural magnetic field, rather than spend 100 Billion lifting it all into space.

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