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Climate catastrophe on Earth can be stopped by catapults on the Moon: what scientists have come up with

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
Moon dust could save humanity from climate catastrophe

In the future, humanity could use dust from the Moon to create a space curtain that would partially prevent the sun's rays from reaching the Earth's surface. To do this, space catapults can be built on our planet's satellite, which will "shoot" dust into outer space at supersonic speeds.

This is stated in a scientific article published in the journal PLOS Climate. According to PopSci, researchers have modelled this process of dust propagation and, according to computer simulations, such a well-placed curtain of lunar dust can cut off several percent of sunlight.

The idea of creating an obstacle to the sun's rays reaching the Earth is not new, but the authors of the previously discussed ideas proposed building huge space objects that would create a shadow for the Earth. At the same time, the idea with dust is much cheaper, as dust as a raw material does not require any effort or engineering development costs.

The idea came from astrophysicists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge (USA). One of the study's authors, Scott Kenyon, said that he and his team don't usually come up with ways to cool planets. They are studying a completely different type of dust: the one that collects around distant stars that are just forming. In the course of the study, astrophysicists realised that dust has a shadowing effect, cooling everything in its shadow.

"So we started experimenting with dust accumulations that would protect the Earth from sunlight," said Kenyon.

The idea of dust should also be appreciated by scientists working in the field of solar engineering, as in addition to expensive space structures, humanity has also considered changing the Earth's atmosphere to cool its surface. To do this, it was proposed to spray aerosols in the stratosphere to copy the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions. But such actions are risky, as they could result in the destruction of the ozone layer or acid rain.

"If you could just reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth, it would be a cleaner intervention than adding material to the stratosphere," said Peter Irvine, a solar geoengineer at University College London.

Therefore, the dust idea looks like a winner. But its implementation requires 10 billion kilograms of dust annually. Sending it into space from the Earth is a problem, and the Moon, due to its lower gravity, may well save the day.

Hypothetical electromagnetic catapults could do this job without rocket launches. According to the authors, such catapults could be powered by several square kilometres of solar panels placed on the Earth's satellite.

Scientists have calculated that "shooting" dust into the Lagrange point - a place in space where the gravitational forces of two objects cancel each other out - would ensure that dust would not return to the Moon and would not fall to Earth.

According to the calculations, 10 billion kg of dust over the course of a year would create a curtain that would reduce the annual level of illumination of the Earth by about 1.8%, which is equivalent to the loss of about six days of sunlight per year.

Although the gravitational balance will trap the dust, it will only last for a few days, after which it will fly away. So dust reserves have to be constantly renewed. That's why so much dust is needed.

At the same time, Irwin, who is not a participant in the study, notes that at the moment, humanity cannot launch anything from the Moon, let alone billions of tonnes of lunar dust, because there is no infrastructure on the satellite. Such a dust curtain, if it becomes possible, will only be possible in the next century.

"If we had a lunar base and were doing all kinds of cool things in space, we could do that - but that's something for the 22nd century," Irwin said.

At the same time, he reminds us that the fight against climate change on Earth is a problem that humanity must address now. In particular, through the decarbonisation of the energy grid and the rejection of fossil fuels.

As OBOZREVATEL reported earlier, it was found that the water temperature in the oceans in 2022 was the highest in the history of observations.

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