Scientists want to make Mars habitable with an artificial magnetic field

Mars has long been considered the fixer of the planet.

One of the biggest obstacles facing those seeking to terraform the red planet is its weak magnetic field, which would leave all potential residents exposed to harmful solar radiation.

Now scientists have proposed a new ambitious method of providing Mars with an artificial magnetosphere to make it habitable for future humans, The universe today report explains.

Phobos holds the key

Although Mars has long been considered an ideal candidate for planet B, a place in our solar system that can be terraformed to allow humans to inhabit, its weak magnetic field does not provide the same protection from high-energy charged particles as we have here on The Earth.

Mars used to be home to lakes and rivers, but its lack of a strong magnetic field means that its former atmosphere has been gradually removed by solar winds. According to new study by researchers at Cornell University, this problem can be solved by creating an artificial magnetic field on Mars.

The core of the red planet is smaller and cooler than the Earth, which means that it does not have the same conditions that produce a dynamo effect in the center of our planet, so the researchers turned to the exterior of the planet. To be precise, they want to use its largest moon, Phobos, to create an artificial magnetic field through what is known as plasma fertilizer.

A new study joins a long list of proposals for terraforming Mars

Long list of supporters to terraform Mars includes ideas such as the use of thermonuclear weapons to warm the planet or orbital mirrors to warm the poles. But a new proposal from researchers at Cornell University suggests using the Mars Phobos satellite to create a strong flow of charged particles around the planet.

Phobos, the larger of the two moons on Mars, is so close to the planet that it completes its orbit in eight hours. The scientists proposed ionizing particles from the surface of Phobos and their acceleration to produce a plasma fertilizer – an annular cloud of particles – along the orbital trajectory of Phobos. Doing so, the researchers say, will create a strong enough magnetic field to protect Mars from the solar winds.

The authors point out that they have hardly dealt with the technological and logistical side of their proposal and that they are very much in the idea phase. The race to reach Mars is heating up – SpaceX recently announced that its starship headed for Mars will make its first orbital flight in January – but since people are expected to reach the Red Planet sometime after 2030, there is still plenty of time to look at the drawing board.

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