A new study published in PLOS Climate has explored the potential of using moon dust to block radiation from the sun and mitigate the impacts of global warming. Scientists have been considering various methods of blocking 1-2% of the sun’s light to reduce global warming for decades. The study, led by researchers from the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smithsonian and the University of Utah, found that launching dust from the moon to a way station at the “Lagrange Point” between Earth and the sun would be the most effective method. NASA-ISRO NISAR Mission: A Joint Effort to Observe Earth’s Changes.
Why Moon Dust?
The team of astronomers found that the inherent properties of lunar dust are just right to effectively work as a sun shield. The simulations tested how lunar dust scattered along various courses until they found excellent trajectories aimed toward L1 that served as an effective sun shield. The results were positive because much less energy is needed to launch dust from the moon than Earth.
Simulating the Sun Shield
Two scenarios were promising in the study. In the first scenario, the authors positioned a space station platform at the L1 Lagrange point between Earth and the sun. In computer simulations, the researchers shot particles from the platform to the L1 orbit, including the position of Earth, the sun, the moon, and other solar system planets, and tracked where the particles scattered. The authors found that when launched precisely, the dust would follow a path between Earth and the sun, effectively creating shade, at least for a while.
In the second scenario, the authors shot lunar dust from a platform on the surface of the moon towards the sun. The simulations tested how lunar dust scattered along various courses until they found excellent trajectories aimed toward L1 that served as an effective sun shield.
Relevance to Climate Change Mitigation
The authors stress that their new study only explores the potential impact of this strategy, rather than evaluate whether these scenarios are logistically feasible. One of the biggest logistical challenges – replenishing dust streams every few days – also has an advantage. The sun’s radiation naturally disperses the dust particles throughout the solar system, meaning the sun shield is temporary and particles do not fall onto Earth. The authors assure that their approach would not create any adverse environmental effects.
“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,” says Ben Bromley, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Utah and lead author for the study.