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Moving Whole Planets, Revisited

In 2001, a trio of scientists (D. G. Korycansky, Gregory Laughlin and Fred C. Adams) were thinking ahead about the real global warming threat - the brightening of the sun over the next billion years or so. They proposed moving the Earth.

The Sun's gradual brightening will seriously compromise the Earth's biosphere within ~ 1E9 years. If Earth's orbit migrates outward, however, the biosphere could remain intact over the entire main-sequence lifetime of the Sun. In this paper, we explore the feasibility of engineering such a migration over a long time period. The basic mechanism uses gravitational assists to (in effect) transfer orbital energy from Jupiter to the Earth, and thereby enlarges the orbital radius of Earth. This transfer is accomplished by a suitable intermediate body, either a Kuiper Belt object or a main belt asteroid. The object first encounters Earth during an inward pass on its initial highly elliptical orbit of large (~ 300 AU) semimajor axis. The encounter transfers energy from the object to the Earth in standard gravity-assist fashion by passing close to the leading limb of the planet. The resulting outbound trajectory of the object must cross the orbit of Jupiter; with proper timing, the outbound object encounters Jupiter and picks up the energy it lost to Earth. With small corrections to the trajectory, or additional planetary encounters (e.g., with Saturn), the object can repeat this process over many encounters. To maintain its present flux of solar energy, the Earth must experience roughly one encounter every 6000 years (for an object mass of 1E22 g). We develop the details of this scheme and discuss its ramifications.

(Via Astronomical engineering: a strategy for modifying planetary orbits .)

Just recently, Tor put up an interesting article by James Davis Nicholl referencing this idea, with a smattering of science fiction references:

Has this ever happened to you? You’re living on a perfectly good planet in orbit around a perfectly acceptable star—and then suddenly, the neighbourhood goes to crap and you have to move...

Of course, this raises the question of how to do this without destroying the world. You could just slap rockets on one end of the planet (and at least one author did) but the side effects of that method could well be…undesirable. Authors have wrestled with the problem and come up with answers ranging from the utterly implausible to the somewhat less plausible.

(Via Tor.)

I'd argue that it was really golden age great Edmond Hamilton who had the idea, since he wrote about steering a star in his 1928 classic Crashing Suns.

You could also argue that Jack Williamson gets a piece of this, since he told us how to use an asteroid rocket to move an asteroid in his 1933 story Salvage in Space.

Hamilton also wrote about moving planets in his 1934 story Thundering Worlds, describing planetary propulsion-blasts. His story was just a couple of months behind E.E. 'Doc' Smith, who wrote about moving a planet in his renowned classic Triplanetary.

Robert Heinlein got some good mileage from this idea in one of his earliest short stories; see how to move an asteroid from his 1939 story Misfit.

And while you're thinking about it, don't forget the barytrine field from George O. Smith's 1952 story Troubled Star, as well as the Puppeteer's Kemplerer (Klemperer) Rosette in Larry Niven's 1970 classic Ringworld.

Thanks to @nyrath for tweeting about this article.

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