In a strange, but awesome twist on a Michael Bay movie, Scottish scientists are proposing that asteroids can save us from rising temperatures across the planet.
Researchers at the Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory, at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, are saying that it's possible to lower the amount of solar radiation we receive from the Sun by putting a cloud of space dust — blasted off a captured near-Earth asteroid — between the Sun and the Earth. This could lower Earth's temperature by 2 degrees Celsius, thus offsetting the projected rise in temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions.
"I would like to make it clear that I would never suggest geoengineering in place of reducing our carbon emissions," says Russell Bewick, one of the researchers on the project, according to LiveScience. Through the use of this method, though, "we can buy time to find a lasting solution to combat Earth's climate change. The dust cloud is not a permanent cure, but it could offset the effects of climate change for a given time to allow slow-acting measures like carbon capture to take effect."
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The proposal is to find a near-Earth asteroid large enough to create the required cloud of dust, use a space vehicle to direct it to Lagrange Point 1 (L1) — a point in space between the Earth and the Sun where any object placed there will stay at that relative position, orbiting at the same speed as the Earth — and blast off a cloud of dust that would act as a shade for the Earth.
Normally, the closer you are to the Sun, the faster you will orbit it, due to the Sun's gravitational force. However, if there is a large enough object nearby, you will also be affected by the gravitational force of that object, and this can change the speed at which you orbit. For the system of the Earth, Sun and Moon, there are five points in space around the Earth that act as stable points. Anything placed at these Lagrangian Points — so called because they were proposed by French mathematician and astronomer Joseph-Louis Lagrange — will maintain their location relative to the Earth and Sun. L1 is the point that lies on a straight line between the Earth and Sun, roughly 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, around 4 times the distance to the moon.
The project scientists believe that such a plan would reduce the amount of radiation that the Earth receives from the Sun by 1.7%, which "will hardly be noticeable on Earth," according to Bewick. It would be just enough to offset the effects of climate change, though.