Star Lifting

Removing matter from a star using the power of its own luminosity

Stellar Stage 1Stellar Stage 2Stellar Stage 3
Images from Alex Mulvey

Starlifting, Star Lifting

Starlifting is the removal of material from a star for industrial use or for stellar husbandry. The energy required for this process comes from the star itself, either directly from its luminosity or from the fusion or conversion of the lifted material.

There are a multitude of processes available for the harvest and extraction of stellar matter. The simplest method is to use a fleet of scoopships using magnetic ramscoop technology, lifting material from near the chromosphere towards collection points further away.

Other methods of star lifting involve manipulating the star so that its matter is ejected into space, specifically conically at the poles or radially off the equator, accomplished using various arrangements of orbiting magnetic array. These arrays can be used to accelerate matter away from the star, either at the equator or at either of both of the poles.

Scoopship extraction

Scooping a star's matter directly without the use of orbiting magnetic arrays can be achieved by simply using a fleet of scoopships utilising ramscoop technology. This is a flexible strategy because it requires no existing infrastructure. Particularly prominent among the factions which utilise scoopships in this fashion are the SunMiners. Relatively small-scale scoopship extraction is a common first stage for larger and more organized solar collection methods. Typical procedure is for the sunscoop to orbit elliptically about the star, the perihelion of its orbit bringing it into the atmosphere of the sun to scoop up matter, then the matter is released towards the aphelion. In common with other scoopships the material can either be been processed onboard the ship or released to a nearby processing facility. In both cases the scoop method allows the matter to be released into any orbit immediately, so scoop orbits are typically close to parallel with the intended destination's momentum.

Polar extraction

Polaris starlifting
Image from Steve Bowers
The star-lifting array around Polaris squeezes this brilliant star using intense magnetic fields, causing mass to be ejected from the polar regions
For stellar extraction methods that involve accelerating material away from the poles, a large scale array of power collectors is necessary. These power collectors convert stellar luminosity into a powerful magnetic field which accelerates stellar matter towards the poles. At the poles a ring of magnetic statites concentrate the outflow into a powerful stream. The so-called 'Huff and Puff' system uses these statites to 'pump' outgoing material by periodically allowing them to fall towards the star, thereby constricting the flow.

The collection process will typically involve ramscoops encircling the sun, either orbiting individually in polar orbits or supported in structural arrays by mass stream rings. Ramscoop statites in higher positions may be utilized to collect excess volumes of matter that slip through the initial scoops. In their polar orbits the rampscoops can swoop through the ejecta cloud to collect matter, then process and launch it outside of the region. By nature of this orbit, the initial velocity is around perpendicular with the star's equator, so a package sent to the outer system must perform high energy accelerations to escape. In the case of mass streams, the mostly stationary ramscoops collect the matter after which it is moved and processed along the mass stream structure, eventually launched in a similar fashion to the method involving polar orbits. These polar methods are advantageous due to the unlikelihood of worlds or habitats to be in the immediate path of any ejecta.

Radial extraction

Image from Steve Bowers
Magnetic arrays around Dschubba accelerate this already fast-spinning star, causing mass to be ejected from the equator
Radial methods involve spinning the star about its rotational axis to either flatten the star along its equator, or force ejecta to fly off altogether. For this process, rings of magnetic accelerators will be set into orbit to increase the star's rate of rotation. Lasers may be utilized at slower rotations to excite the stellar matter, which is ejected and collected in controlled regions. At faster rotations the material will begin to fly off on its own, but in an uncontrolled manner. Radial methods are advantageous because the released material already has some orbital momentum, able to be more readily stabilized into a regular orbit, though the region becomes hazardous for unshielded infrastructure.

In order to accelerate the extraction of material from a star, the luminosity of the star can be reflected back towards the surface, causing the chromosphere to heat up and expand. This makes it easier for the magnetic acceleration of material at the equator, or (in the case of polar extraction) the acceleration of material towards the poles. Some star lifting rigs employ all these techniques simultaneously.

starlifting sirius
Image from Jim Wisniewski
Most recently the Sirian Hierarchy have begun an ambitious project to starlift Sirius A; pictured above are the first of billions of devices placed in orbit to commence the process of stellar engineering which will extend the lifetime of the star for billions, perhaps trillions of years. The ring of magnetic accelerators has spun Sirius A into a flattened disk shape. Tuned lasers, shining inwards from the sphere of solar collectors, give the plasma the extra boost it needs to leap off into space where it cools and is collected. As the process continues through millions of years the star will shrink, yielding up nearly two solar masses of hydrogen in the process. Then it will settle into a comfortable red dwarf stage, and the collectors will be linked together into an unbroken sphere supported by light pressure. Before, its fuel would have been spent in a scant billion years, wasted into the void of space in the blink of an eye. After it is lifted, the fate of the Dog Star will not be death, but life. It will burn for a trillion years, as will the ten new stars built from its liberated substance, and its light will support the existance of uncountable lives. Farming the stars: a necessary process to sustain any advanced civilization.
Transapientech and godtech methods of starlifting include a range of metric technology, perhaps the most well-attested being the Grazer wormhole, which can extract matter from a star and transport it to a distant location almost instantly.
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Development Notes
Text by Alex Mulvey and Steve Bowers
Initially published on 31 December 2001.