The Phys.org article NASA proposes a magnetic shield to protect Mars' atmosphere says:

...Dr. Jim Green – the Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division – and a panel of researchers presented an ambitious idea. In essence, they suggested that by positioning a magnetic dipole shield at the Mars L1 Lagrange Point, an artificial magnetosphere could be formed that would encompass the entire planet, thus shielding it from solar wind and radiation.

Naturally, Green and his colleagues acknowledged that the idea might sounds a bit "fanciful". However, they were quick to emphasize how new research into miniature magnetospheres (for the sake of protecting crews and spacecraft) supports this concept:

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above: "The proposed method for creating an artificial magnetic dipole at Mars’ L1 Lagrange Point." Credit: NASA/J.Green From here.

"This new research is coming about due to the application of full plasma physics codes and laboratory experiments. In the future it is quite possible that an inflatable structure(s) can generate a magnetic dipole field at a level of perhaps 1 or 2 Tesla (or 10,000 to 20,000 Gauss) as an active shield against the solar wind."

In addition, the positioning of this magnetic shield would ensure that the two regions where most of Mars' atmosphere is lost would be shielded. In the course of the presentation, Green and the panel indicated that these the major escape channels are located, "over the northern polar cap involving higher energy ionospheric material, and 2) in the equatorial zone involving a seasonal low energy component with as much as 0.1 kg/s escape of oxygen ions."

While using an artificial magnetosphere to preserve the atmosphere of a terraformed Mars may not be completely necessary, I think the intellectual exercise described in the article still has substantial merit, both for protecting smaller volumes (e.g. spacecraft, space stations, etc.) and perhaps even the Earth should the Sun ever find itself in a bad mood.

Question: Is there anything I could read further about NASA's (or anyone else's) interest or research into artificial mini-magnetosphere's for protection of crewed spacecraft or space stations against radiation?


Another side benefit of the exercise is the insight gained in magnetohydrodynamics itself:

To test this idea, the research team – which included scientists from Ames Research Center, the Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Colorado, Princeton University, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory – conducted a series of simulations using their proposed artificial magnetosphere. These were run at the Coordinated Community Modeling Center (CCMC), which specializes in space weather research, to see what the net effect would be.

  • At first I thought you were going to refer to something else. It may still be the same thing. University of Washington (Washington the state) approximately 3 years ago announced a process based on plasma that generated a Magneto Sphere that interacted with the either the solar wind or radiation (I will explain) in a vacuum. NASA partnered with them and tested it in their low vacuum chamber. Got the required calibration data to tune the component. Then it went totally dark. The only other thing I have seen from the Washington Group was with UCLA and Plasma containment .... – Enigma Maitreya Mar 11 '17 at 4:01
  • on their Fusion generator. The going dark is why I can not remember what it was interacting with but the gest is The more radiation the smaller the generated field. The less radiation the larger the generated field. The example given was the closer to the sun the smaller the field was the further away the larger the field was. The protection was the same and there was power generated somehow from the interaction. I just do not remember anything about "micro" being used. – Enigma Maitreya Mar 11 '17 at 4:03
  • This question is a duplicate of this – quintumnia Mar 11 '17 at 13:04
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    @quintumnia not even close. Not even a little bit. The title of that question is "What materials provide the best protection from cosmic radiation?" and the title of this question is "Is NASA doing research on 'mini-magnetospheres' to protect crew from radiation in space?" There is an answer there that is a mismatch there because it is not an answer to "What materials..." however, it might be a good idea to repost that answer here!! However, note that that research is now a decade old and I've asked in the present tense about current research. – uhoh Mar 11 '17 at 13:28
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    One last comment as I don't want this to go to chat. There is no doubt that is the Fussion one I was remembering some what incorrectly The one I really want to re-find and track is the MagnetoSphere / ElectroMagnetic field or what ever it was as my memory is it gave Protection vs Radiation and supplied power or so I remember. Would just like to either clear that memory out or see what its current state is. – Enigma Maitreya Mar 11 '17 at 17:20
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I've been trying to find a link between the mini-magnetosphere actually created at Rutherford Appleton Labs (U.K.) in 2013 to NASA. So far there's only anecdotal reports and interviews none of which are conclusive as to NASA's involvement. RAL has a good bit of material published on the proof of concept magnetosphere and as far as I can tell is the only place such work has gone past theoretical models to a practical scaled model (that was very successful) so it would be surprising if there's been no contact with NASA.

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/159971-scientists-produce-star-trek-like-deflector-device-for-cancer-free-interplanetary-travel

I'd also add that NASA did show interest in a group of researchers at CERN in 2014 working to develop an artificial magnetosphere using magnesium diboride superconducting magnets. The magnets are used in the LHC to create ultra-bright particle beams at a low temperature. Used in spacecraft shielding, they'd create a magnetosphere around the craft. As far as i can tell that research hasn't been publicly updated since mid 2015.

  • Thank you for noticing my question and taking the time to post! – uhoh May 16 '17 at 11:00

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