As far as hypothetical space megastructures go, the stellar engine is one of our favourites – a gigantic contraption built with the purpose of transporting our Solar System somewhere else, if we ever need to move to a different cosmic neighbourhood.
Now, new research has put forward another idea for what such a radical stellar engine might look like.
Via this beautiful video from Kurzgesagt, you can learn all about the so-called Caplan Thruster, which would use the Sun’s own energy to propel it across the galaxy and beyond. It’s named after the scientist who came up with the design, astrophysicist Matthew Caplan from Illinois State University.
But why would such an enormous machine be needed? Well, while we’re nice and settled where we are, the Universe is constantly shifting, so there’s always a chance that Earth might one day fall into the path of an asteroid shower or a supernova star that’s in the process of exploding into smithereens.
Thanks to today’s technology, we’d get a decent heads-up on such a calamity, something in the region of a few million years. That might just be enough time to help us develop a stellar engine, if we put our minds to it.
We’d recommend you checking out the Kurzgesagt video in full for yourself: it outlines how the Caplan Thruster would sit close to the Sun, using electromagnetic fields to gather hydrogen and helium from the solar wind to use as fuel.
That would power two jets of energy – one using helium, pushed through a fusion reactor to create a jet of radioactive oxygen that would move the Caplan Thruster forward, and one using hydrogen, to maintain distance from the…