New 'Star Trek-style' magnetic space shield for astronauts
London: Scientists are developing a Star Trek-style magnetic space shield that could be used to protect astronauts from harmful radiation given off by the Sun.
Researchers believe the lightweight system being developed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, could potentially be used on NASA missions to Mars or the Moon.
Cosmic rays and high-energy storms given off by the Sun, sometimes equivalent to a year's worth of radiation on Earth have been a constant worry to space scientists.
They could be extremely harmful to astronauts, leading to vomiting, diarrhoea or even organ failure, the 'Sun' reported.
The system involves creating an almost weightless magnetic shield dubbed a "magnetosphere" similar to the one that surrounds the Earth.
The mini magnetosphere would surround the ship and crew, and its electric charge would then deflect away radiation from the Sun.
"Star Trek has great ideas - they just don't have to build it," one of the scientists said.
"What we discovered is that if you put a magnetic field around an object in a flowing plasma, the electrons, which are very light, will follow the new magnetic field that you've put there but the ions, the very fast ions, will overshoot - they won't follow the magnetic field lines," scientists said.
"You end up with a constant electric field that can be enough that it actually refracts or deflects enough of the radiation from inside the magnetic cavity that you've formed to protect the astronauts enough like the Earth that they can survive," they said.