Author Topic: Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth  (Read 1261 times)

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Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
« on: September 30, 2012, 01:40:38 PM »
Quote
Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
By Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor | LiveScience.com – 23 hrs ago.. .

 
To combat global warming, scientists in Scotland now suggest an out-of-this-world solution — a giant dust cloud in space, blasted off an asteroid, which would act like a sunshade for Earth.
 
The world is warming and the climate is changing. Although many want to prevent these shifts by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that trap heat from the sun, some controversially suggest deliberating manipulating the planet's climate with large-scale engineering projects, commonly called geoengineering.
 
Instead of altering the climate by targeting either the oceans or the atmosphere, some researchers have suggested geoengineering projects that would affect the entire planet from space. For instance, projects that reduced the amount of solar radiation Earth receives by 1.7 percent could offset the effects of a global increase in temperature of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C). The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted climate models suggest average global temperatures will likely rise by 2 to 11.5 degrees F (1.1 to 6.4 degrees C) by the end of this century.
 
"A 1.7 percent reduction is very small and will hardly be noticeable on Earth," said researcher Russell Bewick, a space scientist at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. "People sometimes get the idea of giant screens blocking the entire sun. This is not the case ... as [the device] is constantly between the sun and the Earth, it acts merely as a very light shade or filter."
 
Shading Earth
 
One proposal to shade the Earth from the sun would place giant mirrors in space. The main problem with this concept is the immense cost and effort needed either to build and launch such reflectors or to construct them in outer space — the current cost to launch an object into low Earth orbit runs into thousands of dollars per pound. Another would use blankets of dust to blot out the sun, just as clouds do for Earth. These offer the virtue of simplicity compared with mirrors, but run the risk of getting dispersed over time by solar radiation and the gravitational pull of the sun, moon and planets. [Top 10 Craziest Environmental Ideas]
 
Now instead of having a dust cloud floating by itself in space, researchers suggest an asteroid could essentially gravitationally anchor a dust cloud in space to block sunlight and cool the Earth.
 
"I would like to make it clear that I would never suggest geoengineering in place of reducing our carbon emissions," Bewick told LiveScience. Instead, he said, "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."
 
The idea would be to place an asteroid at Lagrange point L1, a site where the gravitational pull of the sun and the Earth cancel out. This point is about four times the distance from the Earth to the moon.
 
The researchers suggest outfitting a near-Earth asteroid with a "mass driver," a device consisting of electromagnets that would hurl asteroid-derived matter away from the giant rock. The mass driver could serve both as a rocket to push the asteroid to the L1 point and as an engine to spew out sun-shielding dust. [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]
 
The researchers calculate that the largest near-Earth asteroid, 1036 Ganymed, could maintain a dust cloud large enough to block out 6.58 percent of the solar radiation that would normally reach Earth, more than enough to combat any current global warming trends. Such a cloud would be about 11 million-billion pounds (5 million-billion kilograms) in mass and about 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) wide.
 
Ganymed has a mass of about 286 million-billion lbs. (130 million-billion kg). An asteroid of this size might make one think of disaster movies, such as "Armageddon"; however, "rather than destroying the Earth, it could be used to help mankind," Bewick said.
 
Asteroid dust challenges
 
The main challenge of this proposal would be pushing an asteroid the size of Ganymed to the sun-Earth L1 point.
 
"The company Planetary Resources recently announced their intention to mine asteroids," Bewick said. "The study that they base their plans on reckons that it will be possible to capture an asteroid with a mass of 500,000 kilograms (1.1 million lbs.) by 2025. Comparing this to the mass of Ganymed makes the task of capturing it seem unfeasible, at least in everything except the very far term. However, smaller asteroids could be moved and clustered at the first Lagrange point."
 
Safety is another concern.
 
"A very large asteroid is a potential threat to Earth, and therefore great care and testing would be required in the implementation of this scenario," Bewick said. "Due to this, the political challenges would probably match the scale of the engineering challenge. Even for the capture of much smaller asteroids, there will likely be reservations from all areas of society, though the risks would be much less."
 
Also, there's no way to fully test this dust cloud on a large scale to verify its effectiveness before implementing it, "something that is common to all geoengineering schemes," Bewick said. "On the global scale, it is not possible to test because the test would essentially be the real thing, except probably in a diluted form. Climate modeling can be performed, but without some large-scale testing, the results from these models cannot be fully verified."
 
Still, if geoengineers did use asteroids to generate clouds, they could drastically reduce how much dust the projects spew out "should any catastrophic climate response be observed," Bewick said, "with the cloud dispersing naturally over time."
http://news.yahoo.com/asteroid-dust-could-fight-climate-change-earth-132248031.html

Weekends are usually slim pickin's for science news...  Also, this is probably a bad idea.

Offline Unorthodox

Re: Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2012, 04:01:19 PM »
I cannot fathom how this could be any cheaper than launching mirrors...

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Re: Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2012, 04:03:59 PM »
Dirt is easier to manufacture and maintain than mirrors?

It's also infinitely tougher to get rid of or adjust or move a little, should the need arise.

Offline Unorthodox

Re: Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2012, 04:08:17 PM »
Well, we're talking near earch orbit mirrors vs moving an asteroid and hoping it holds onto a dust cloud in synchronous orbit, somewhere between earth and Neptune ish area. 

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Re: Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2012, 04:20:06 PM »
As I said, probably a bad idea.  I suppose that the cost of constructing and launching enough mirrors big enough has a lower limit - conceptually, once the tech was developed, flying a bunch of nukes out there and moving a big rock, then pulverizing it, ought to have a lower limit than a million huge mirrors.

A big problem I see is that the L1 point is unstable; hard to image how you do orbital adjustments on a cloud of dirt the way you'd rig the mirrors to be able to do.  When you have to start over every hundred years or whatever - just a bad idea.

Offline Unorthodox

Re: Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2012, 05:25:09 PM »
No, no. 

They want to anchor the entire asteroid (by launching and landing engines on it, basically) in a synchronous orbit to become a gravitational tether for the cloud of dust.  A cloud of dust that is created by slowly chipping away said asteroid with said engines. 


So, you're looking at the cost of launching lots of relatively small mirrors, or several massive engines.  At present, I don't even see us able to launch the engines needed at all, they'd need to be assembled in space.


2024 would be the time the asteroid is closes to earth.  Not sure when it's closest to L1 or what direction it's going at that point.  I would think you'd want to hit it at it's closest to earth pass heading towards L1 for the easiest orbit alteration. 

Not to mention I'm unaware of anything that can chip away at iron/silica indefinitely without maintenance.  Not even Bruce Willis.  ;)

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Re: Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2012, 05:37:13 PM »
Well, engines are a mistaken over-complication right there.

It would be nice to have the tech available, though -  the first concern to tow a big nickle-iron rock into orbit is going to end up worth all the money in the world.

 

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