Imagine you are a 16 year old interning to be an astronomer in NASA. One fine night you notice something strange. You see a tiny red spot in the sky while stargazing using your Celestron 660 Power Vision telescope. You know how red stars look like, but this looks different. It looks very suspicious and you believe that aliens have finally arrived. You submit the picture to the NASA Astronomy Department. They immediately use the small but efficient telescopes in their department. It looks very strange and they are unable to identify it. They immediately alert the Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii. The observatories are able to pin point the location for this strange object. They send the location to the Hubble Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope deployed in our solar system. The location is right on Gacrux (which is a red giant star). After Hubble’s reports we received bad news. Apparently Gacrux had gone Supernova and we have just about 10000 years left before Gacrux’s supernova destroys Earth. Since we cannot avoid the supernova by just relying on the Sun’s revolution path we need to use another alternative. If we would still like to live, we can construct a stellar engine. A Stellar Engine is yet another hypothetical mega-structure that is used to move a star. Our sun’s revolution around the Milky Way’s centre takes 230 million years. If we want to escape the deadly supernova we need to travel faster. Since we can’t travel for 230 million years we can go faster by using stellar engines.
Many scientists around world have revealed many designs for a stellar engines but only two are physically possible — The Shkadov thruster and the Caplan thruster.
1. Shkadov Thruster — The Shkadov thruster is like a giant mirror which moves the sun by reflecting half of the solar radiation. When we switch on a torch in the space, it will push us slowly. The Shkadov thrusters works on the same principle. The Shkadov Thruster must be placed like a parabola which sends the solar radiation around the sun. We must place the Shkadov thruster right above the Sun’s poles. If we don’t place the shkadov thrusters on the poles, we might overheat or overfreeze our Earth. If we want the Shkadov thrusters to move, it must be very thin like very thin. It must be 1 micrometer thin. Over the span of 230 million years, we can move a 100 light years. That may seem a lot, but this won’t be enough to survive a supernova.
2. Caplan thrusters — The Caplan thruster is another stellar engines which works on a different principle. The Caplan thruster needs a Dyson Sphere to work. The Dyson sphere gives a fraction of its energy to the engine; the engine then produces a high power beam and pushes the sun. In order for the engine to not succumb to the Sun’s gravity, the engine produces another beam back to the sun which maintains balance. This other beam also increases the sun’s life. In the span of sun’s revolution we can travel 500 light years which is enough to dodge a supernova. If this keeps on going on we can also reach other galaxy. In this process we can completely map our galaxy as well as possibly look for extra-terrestrial life. This is a win-win-win.
Since we have discussed about stellar engines lets discuss some terms that maybe helpful in future articles to understand them –
1. 1. Neutron Star — A neutron star is another possible creation from a supernova. A neutron star is the second most powerful object in the Universe after black holes. The power of their gravity is 150,000 km/s. It is only 20 km in diameter but very powerful. The collision of two neutron stars is as powerful as a supernova.
2. 2. Big Bang — The Big Bang was the explosion that created our universe 13.8 Billion years ago. The gas clouds created by the Big Bang are what have created all the stars and galaxies.
3. Gamma Ray burst — A gamma ray burst is a very powerful explosion created by a very powerful supernova or the collision of two neutron stars. A gamma ray burst was discovered by US spy satellites during the cold war. If a gamma ray burst occurs in a 1000 light year radius from our planet, the side facing the gamma ray will be completely obliterated.
Thank you for reading my article. I have temporarily taken a break from the How to colonize our Universe series. However the journey to colonize the Universe will continue.
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