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Thread: Let's perform stellar conversion on Saturn!

  1. #1
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    Okay, here's what I want to do: Convert Saturn from a Gas Giant into a small solar body.

    Assuming that we have a level of technology that's not up there with "populate it with a quintillion Monoliths and let them trigger a nuclear ignition", how can this be accomplished?

    Secondarily, what are the long term effects to the rest of the solar system?

    How long will this new star last before it runs out of fuel and collapses into a brown dwarf?

    Is the Earth's Van Allen belt strong enough to filter out the harmful radiation that will come from this second micro-star?

    Let's play, gang!

  2. #2
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    The main problem with converting Saturn, or Jupiter for that matter, is that there just isn't enough substance there to do it. What's needed is some force to collapse the hydrogen and whatnot into a mass dense enough and hot enough to begin fusion. But gravity, which is the normal force involved, is not strong enough to do the job in this case.

    And to make matters worse, once you get the process started, you need even more force to counteract the outward pressure of the fusion at the core. If you don't have this, the star will just re-expand and go out again. Poof.

    So, what we need is some way to artificially increase the force of gravity. I can see 3 possibilities. One is to have some form of artificial gravity directed at the center of the planet pushing all the hydrogen towards the center. This would have to be maintained constantly in order to keep it burning, or else it would expand again, as I mentioned above.

    The second alternative would be to import more hydrogen and layer it on until it becomes massive enough for fusion. But that requires something on the order of ten to twenty times the original mass. Besides, this isn't really changing Saturn per-se, it's simply building your own star using Saturn as the base.

    So on to number 3. Convert some of the hydrogen into heavier elements in order to force the existing mass into a smaller area and thus increase the gravity gradient. I believe this was the way Clarke explained it in 2010, but I wonder if it could really be done. Heavier elements require correspondingly higher temperatures to fuse, and beyond iron they refuse to fuse at all. If you fill up the core with these heavy elements, you may be able to raise the core temperature enough to fuse hydrogen, but would there then be enough hydrogen left to burn? Would the extra elements dampen the fusion process instead?

    Perhaps you could create a small core of neutronium, but leave the hydrogen layers above it intact. Make it big enough and you might be able to create a layer of fusion on it's surface. Could it be done? I don't know.

  3. #3
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    Couldn't we just light Saturn's atmosphere with a match? There's an awful lot of oxygen and hydrogen up there - of course, we'd have to convert this from water vapour to free form first, the sulphur would smell a bit too...
    [img]/phpBB/images/smiles/icon_lol.gif[/img]

  4. #4
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    On 2002-10-25 09:02, David Hall wrote:
    So, what we need is some way to artificially increase the force of gravity. I can see 3 possibilities. One is to have some form of artificial gravity directed at the center of the planet pushing all the hydrogen towards the center. This would have to be maintained constantly in order to keep it burning, or else it would expand again, as I mentioned above.
    Folks, I don't think we, Earthlings, need an additional star. A new star - a gravitationally increased Saturn - at that position would cause a mess in the orbits of the rest of the bodies of the system. Not to mention the increased radiation, what we absolutely don't want.

    But it could be useful for a colony located in the outskirts of the system.

    So, my suggestion: wait until the Sun runs out of fuel, then light up Saturn for heating us in a new home in a moon of Uranus, Neptune or the like.

    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Argos on 2002-10-25 15:08 ]</font>

  5. #5
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    I'm against it first and foremost for aesthetic reasons. Saturn is just too beautiful in the eye of this beholder.

    BTW: If an advanced alien civilization had a solar system like ours, and they had a pressing reason to create another star in it, they could force a collision between all their gas giants, with their outer most gas giant, (i.e. their "Neptune".) Even then, I'm not sure they'd have enough matter to collapse into a stellar core.

  6. #6
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    Setting up a selfsustained thermonuclear reaction in a gas giant must be rather impossible.

    BUT!

    It's absolutely possible to float a huge artificial reactor in giant's atmosphere and beam enough energy specifically onto a planet or moon of choice. Must be enough for billions of years of prosperity there...

  7. #7
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    On 2002-10-25 16:36, AgoraBasta wrote:
    Setting up a selfsustained thermonuclear reaction in a gas giant must be rather impossible.

    BUT!

    It's absolutely possible to float a huge artificial reactor in giant's atmosphere and beam enough energy specifically onto a planet or moon of choice. Must be enough for billions of years of prosperity there...
    Are you talking about scooping free hydrogen out of the atmosphere and fusing it?

  8. #8
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    On 2002-10-25 14:59, Argos wrote:
    On 2002-10-25 09:02, David Hall wrote:
    So, what we need is some way to artificially increase the force of gravity. I can see 3 possibilities. One is to have some form of artificial gravity directed at the center of the planet pushing all the hydrogen towards the center. This would have to be maintained constantly in order to keep it burning, or else it would expand again, as I mentioned above.
    Folks, I don't think we, Earthlings, need an additional star. A new star - a gravitationally increased Saturn - at that position would cause a mess in the orbits of the rest of the bodies of the system. Not to mention the increased radiation, what we absolutely don't want.

    But it could be useful for a colony located in the outskirts of the system.

    So, my suggestion: wait until the Sun runs out of fuel, then light up Saturn for heating us in a new home in a moon of Uranus, Neptune or the like.

    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Argos on 2002-10-25 15:08 ]</font>
    By that point, if we're here, we may be beyond the biological need for sunlight at all. I'm talking like within the next ten to fifty thousand years sort of thing.

    Hmm.

    What about nuclear detonations at sustained intervals in a grid pattern across the upper atmosphere? Or would that just make a mighty flash, then nothing?

  9. #9
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    On 2002-10-25 16:39, Bill S. wrote:
    Are you talking about scooping free hydrogen out of the atmosphere and fusing it?
    Yep.

  10. #10
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    On 2002-10-25 16:43, AgoraBasta wrote:
    On 2002-10-25 16:39, Bill S. wrote:
    Are you talking about scooping free hydrogen out of the atmosphere and fusing it?
    Yep.
    Groovy. That's definitely do-able.

    Ooh! Spin-off idea; do the same thing on Jupiter, and direct the energy as IR (thermal) via a mirror system directly onto (and thereby "melting") Europa!

  11. #11
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    On 2002-10-25 16:44, Bill S. wrote:
    Spin-off idea; do the same thing on Jupiter, and direct the energy as IR (thermal) via a mirror system directly onto (and thereby "melting") Europa!
    Exactly this I primarily meant...

  12. #12
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    On 2002-10-25 16:36, AgoraBasta wrote:

    It's absolutely possible to float a huge artificial reactor in giant's atmosphere and beam enough energy specifically onto a planet or moon of choice. Must be enough for billions of years of prosperity there...
    Don't they do something like this on Cloud city in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back? I think it's supposed to be at a gas giant and they do some sort of mining.

  13. #13
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    On 2002-10-25 17:20, Laser Jock wrote:
    On 2002-10-25 16:36, AgoraBasta wrote:

    It's absolutely possible to float a huge artificial reactor in giant's atmosphere and beam enough energy specifically onto a planet or moon of choice. Must be enough for billions of years of prosperity there...
    Don't they do something like this on Cloud city in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back? I think it's supposed to be at a gas giant and they do some sort of mining.
    <geekmode>

    Yeah, "tibana" Gas. Basically, it's what makes blasters so damn powerful, and allegedly what slows the beams down to no faster than a bullet. It's a high-energy gas that makes a normal laser beam an exponential order of magnitude stronger than just a plain old laser, thus it's highly in demand...
    </geekmode>
    _________________
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    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bill S. on 2002-10-25 17:26 ]</font>

  14. #14
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    There sure must be many instances of the idea floating through literature/movies. It's just too simple and seemingly perfect...

  15. #15
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    On 2002-10-25 16:42, Bill S. wrote:
    By that point, if we're here, we may be beyond the biological need for sunlight at all.
    I sincerely don't think so. Energy will always be necessary for the physical/chemical processes which result in life as we know it (whether conscient or not).

    What about nuclear detonations at sustained intervals in a grid pattern across the upper atmosphere?
    Seems fine. It's much like the detonation of a nuclear device itself (at least the ancient ones), which is based upon simultaneous detonation of explosive charges all around a fissile core (to make the radioactive components to crunh, prior to the beggining of the chain reaction).


    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Argos on 2002-10-26 10:21 ]</font>

  16. #16
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    Try an amalgam of two of the above ideas. Need a denser core to create more gravity and pressurize the hydrogen. Import very heavy elements to Jupitor (it's bigger to start with) They will naturally go to the center of the planet drawing the gas envelope tighter and may be able to do so without increasing the total gravitational pull of the planet. You do not want to go messing too greatly with total mass of planets, as was pointed out above, that would perturb the orbits of the other, including Earth's, orbits.

    This psuedo star would not harm us too much as the much greater solar wind of the Sun would be blowing any high speed particles the other way. All that would reach us would be light and probably not a lot of that either as this would be a very large , sustained nuclear explosion but a puny excuse for a star. As was also mentioned though it could supply enough supplemental heat to make some moon's of Jupitor or even Mars itself a little more habitable.

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