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Scientists Propose Firing Moon Dust Into Space to Fix Climate Change

The Moon
Scientists Propose Firing Moon Dust Into Space to Fix Climate Change. Credit: OldakQuill / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Scientists from the University of Utah, USA, say that firing moon dust into space could help stop climate change on the Earth.

Their study explored the potential of using dust to shield sunlight, by analyzing different properties of dust particles, quantities of dust and the orbits that would be best suited for shading Earth, the University explained in an article.

Sun shield strategy against climate change

In their quest for effective ways to stop global warming which causes climate change, scientists have suggested the temporary sun shield strategy, which would intercept a fraction of sunlight before it reaches the Earth.

For decades, they have been examining ways to implement that grassroots strategy, such as using screens, objects or dust particles to block 1-2% of the sun’s radiation to mitigate the effects of global warming.

According to the findings of this new study, firing dust from Earth to a way station at the so-called “Lagrange Point” between Earth and the sun (L1 orbit) would be the most effective, but it would require astronomical cost and effort. On the other hand, lunar dust from the surface of the moon towards the sun appeared to be a cost-effective alternative.

The team of astronomers applied a technique used to study planet formation around distant stars. It was observed that planet formation releases great amounts of astronomical dust that can form rings around the host star, and these rings intercept light from the central star and re-radiate it in a way that we can detect it on Earth.

“That was the seed of the idea; if we took a small amount of material and put it on a special orbit between the Earth and the sun and broke it up, we could block out a lot of sunlight with a little amount of mass,” said Ben Bromley, professor of physics and astronomy and lead author of the study.

Moon dust properties as a sun shield

In computer simulations, the researchers shot test particles along the L1 orbit, including the position of Earth, the sun, the moon, and other solar system planets, and tracked where the particles scattered.

They found that when launched precisely, the dust would follow a path between Earth and the sun, effectively creating shade, at least for a while.

“Because we know the positions and masses of the major celestial bodies in our solar system, we can simply use the laws of gravity to track the position of a simulated sunshield over time for several different orbits,” said Sameer Khan, undergraduate student and the study’s co-author.

The study concludes that the inherent properties of lunar dust were just right to effectively work as a sun shield, according to simulations of how lunar dust scattered along various courses.

However, the authors point out that this study only explores the potential impact of this strategy, rather than evaluate whether these scenarios are logistically feasible, the University notes.

“We aren’t experts in climate change, or the rocket science needed to move mass from one place to the other. We’re just exploring different kinds of dust on a variety of orbits to see how effective this approach might be. We do not want to miss a game changer for such a critical problem,” said lead author Bromley.

“Our strategy could be an option in addressing climate change, if what we need is more time,” the scientist added.

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