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Asteroid dust can act as sunscreen for Earth

Last Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 - 15:51

London: Researchers at the University of Strathclyde have suggested an interesting new idea to combat global warming - blasting the surface of asteroids to create giant clouds of dust which would act as sunscreen for the planet.

They believe a suitably sized asteroid could be moved into a position close to earth before a giant cloud of dust is blasted off its surface.

An asteroid creates a gravitational pull, so the dust is held in position rather than being gradually dispersed across space.

The idea is the latest in a series of ambitious projects, known as geoengineering, which aim to alter the climate of the planet by reflecting, diverting or absorbing solar radiation.

“The dust cloud is not a permanent cure, but it could offset the effects of climate change for a given time to allow slow-acting measures like carbon capture to take effect,” a newspaper quoted Russell Bewick, one of the research team at the University.

To do so the asteroid would be placed at what is known as Lagrange point L1, a point in space where the gravitational pull of the sun and the Earth balance each other out.

L1 is about four times the distance from Earth to the moon.

It would be then fitted with a ‘mass driver,’ powerful electromagnets that, as well as acting as an engine to maneuver the asteroid into position, could also blast a cloud of dust away from its surface.

The researchers have identified the largest near-Earth asteroid, 1036 Ganymed, as a suitable candidate.

They believe Ganymed could generate a dust cloud large enough to block out 6.58 per cent of solar radiation reaching earth, more than enough to combat any current levels of global warming.

But the main challenge for the scientists is finding a way to move such a large asteroid into place.


First Published: Monday, October 1, 2012 - 15:51

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