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What does a "Low-tech" system for protecting a planet from a Solar Storm look like?
I'm thinking of a system applicable to the first millennium of the space age.

We're familiar with the threat: A solar eruption sends a whole lot of charged particles hurtling toward Earth.  We get a Carrington event, or if we're really unlucky, a Miyake event.

So how, in the first millennium, does Earth (which has "reasonable" protection in the form of a magnetic field) or Mars (which doesn't really) prepare for and defend against this event, in a way that helps protect the entire planet as opposed to protecting a single installation on its surface?  The strength of civilization is that we can build shared infrastructure, so what infrastructure do we build?

I got one "easy" idea but not the technical chops to really evaluate its effectiveness.  Let's say we put a spacecraft in place at Earth-sun (or Mars-Sun) L1 with something on board to 'defocus' or 'scatter' the particle swarm (by disrupting the attendant magnetic field) before it gets here. It would be heavy, and therefore expensive, require significant ongoing investment in station keeping, usable exactly once, and last for maybe a few hours at most, but if that's capable of blunting a repeat of the Carrington event, or worse, the expenses could be a cheap price for an insurance premium.

My first idea for the 'something' was about forty tons of powdered aluminum with a detonator at the center.  A massive spike in radio, followed minutes later by massive spikes in magnetic flux and particulate radiation, and we set off the detonator.  My understanding of magnetic fields and swarms of charged particles is rudimentary, but it seems plausible that a rapidly-expanding cloud of conductive dust could be disruptive enough to the magnetic field of the ions in the solar storm that the whole thing might defocus by several planetary radii between L1 and Earth. 

My second idea for the 'something' is a wide, sparse net of conductive wire, spread out and held in place by centripetal force as the spacecraft spins.  This is on much more solid technical grounds, because it's a magnetic sail and it's been studied for propulsion.  If we bring up a high-tension static charge in that net of wire, we can cause massive disruption in the magnetic field carrying along the ions of the solar storm.  The side effect of course is that this would ground the momentum of the charged particles, causing acceleration of the spacecraft (assuming it is not built into a billion-ton asteroid, because we probably don't want one of those precariously balanced at L1 ....) and pushing it rapidly off station.  But "rapidly" is relative, and if it lasts at least a few hours that ought to be enough to blunt a significant solar storm.  It would require a substantial power source to cancel the charge imparted to the network by incident ions, but well within "ordinary" capabilities for any civilization that can do in-situ resource utilization on the surface of Luna. 

I have a second idea that's considerably "easier" but it's only easy once an orbital ring has been built. So, you know, hard considered from our current perspective.  One of the most useful parts of an orbital ring will be the maglev rails that allow it to be used for transportation. Charging those maglev rails and keeping them charged should serve adequately as a fake magnetosphere for Mars, or as a substantial reinforcement for the magnetosphere of Earth.

Do these ideas work?  Or at least sound plausible? 

Is there something else that would be cheaper, more reliable, or easier to do as an effective insurance policy against Carrington and Miyake events?

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What does a "Low-tech" system for protecting a planet from a Solar Storm look like? - by Bear - 10-24-2023, 08:19 AM

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