Captured asteroid to help fight global warming! Unique solution to shield Earth proposed | Tech News

Captured asteroid to help fight global warming! Unique solution to shield Earth proposed

Scientists have proposed a spaceborne "umbrella" tethered to an asteroid to shield Earth from the Sun's rays to fight global warming.

| Updated on: Aug 06 2023, 14:10 IST
Asteroid 2023 OR5 set to get very close to Earth; Check speed, size, and more
Global warming
1/4 A giant space rock that has been named Asteroid 2023 OR5 is approaching Earth and it is set to get extremely close, reveals US space agency NASA. It will make its close approach tomorrow.   (Pixabay)
Global warming
2/4 According to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), Asteroid 2023 OR5 is travelling towards Earth at a rapid speed of 26795 kilometres per hour and is scheduled to make its nearest approach to the planet tomorrow, August 4, 2023.
Global warming
3/4 As per NASA's asteroid data tracking page, the asteroid 2023 OR5  is expected to come as close as 2,850,000 KM to the Earth. That is an extremely close distance as any deviation from its path for some reason can send it directly towards our planet. (Pixabay)
Global warming
4/4 The asteroid has a size of  96 feet which is the size of an aeroplane. The asteroid belongs to the  Aten group of Near-Earth asteroids. (NASA)
Global warming
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Solar 'Umbrella' tied to an asteroid holds promise in combating global warming, astronomer Istvan Szapudi said. (AFP)

In a revolutionary attempt to combat the escalating effects of global warming, scientists have unveiled a bold proposition to shield the Earth from the sun's intense rays using a spaceborne "umbrella" concept. At the forefront of this groundbreaking idea is astronomer Istvan Szapudi, from the University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy, who envisions a solar shield in the sky tethered to an asteroid that is capable of significantly reducing the amount of sunlight reaching our planet.

Drawing inspiration from everyday life, Szapudi explained, "In Hawai'i, many people use umbrellas to protect themselves from the sunlight during the day. It got me thinking, could we apply a similar concept on a grand scale to mitigate the impending catastrophe of climate change?"

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A Solar Shield for Earth

In his recently published paper in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, Szapudi acknowledged that the concept of space-based solar radiation management (SRM) shield or shade had been proposed before. However, he introduced two game-changing innovations that set his creative approach apart. The first involves tethering a massive shield to a captured asteroid, serving as an ingenious counterweight. This approach significantly reduces the total mass by over 100 times compared to previous untethered shield proposals.

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Explaining the mechanics, a press release stated, "Szapudi's brilliant solution employs a tethered counterweight rather than a cumbersome massive shield, leading to a total weight of approximately 3.5 million tons. Remarkably, this weight is one hundred times lighter than earlier estimates for untethered shields, making the entire plan more feasible and realistic."

Aiming for a Brighter Future

Szapudi's ultimate goal is to reduce solar radiation by 1.7%, a crucial threshold needed to prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. To achieve this, his innovative design entails launching the counterweight, attached to the solar shield by a robust graphene tether.

According to the University of Hawai'i report, “Only 1% of the weight—about 35,000 tons—would be the shield itself, and that is the only part that needs to be launched from Earth. The remaining 99% of the total mass would be asteroids or lunar dust used as a counterweight.”

The scientist believes that this tethered structure could be constructed and deployed more rapidly and economically than other shield designs. However, he does acknowledge significant challenges that need to be addressed. Notably, the limited carrying capacity of current rockets to low Earth orbit, which stands at about 50 tons, poses a considerable obstacle to the realization of this specific SRM plan. Additionally, developing a lightweight yet robust graphene tether is imperative for the success of the project.

While the solar umbrella concept is still in its early stages, scientists and environmentalists alike are hopeful that such innovative thinking could hold the key to mitigating the devastating impacts of global warming. As research and technology continue to advance, the prospect of shielding our planet from the sun's intensity offers a glimmer of hope in the battle to safeguard the Earth's climate for future generations.


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First Published Date: 06 Aug, 14:10 IST