Living on Mars wouldn’t be easy. The air is thin and cold. Dust storms can blanket the entire planet. And there’s no magnetic field to block harmful radiation from space.
So some space enthusiasts have suggested that we “terraform” the Red Planet — make it more like Earth. One way to do so would be to create a magnetic field. It would prevent storms on the Sun from eroding the atmosphere. And it would deflect charged particles from the Sun and from outside the solar system.
Earth’s magnetic field is generated deep inside our planet. Different layers rotate at different rates. That sets up an electric dynamo, which generates the magnetic field.
But Mars’s layers all rotate at the same rate, so the planet hasn’t generated a magnetic field since it was young. But a team from the U.K. and the U.S. found a possible way to make one.
The plan would blast grains of material off one of the small Martian moons. The grains would form a ring around Mars. Solar energy would give the particles an electric charge. Space stations in the same orbit could beam additional energy into the ring to create a magnetic field, and to keep the ring in place.
The team noted that its idea is just a beginning — one possible step toward making Mars more comfortable.
Look for Mars at dawn tomorrow. It looks like a moderately bright star to the left of the Moon. The brighter planets Venus and Jupiter are to their lower left. More about that tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield