Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest, most spectacular and complex ring system in our Solar System. According to researchers from the University of Utah, US, soon the Earth may have its own rings. These rings that could have developed around our planet, however, would have been made of space debris. This comes as no surprise given the increasing number of defunct satellites and increasing anti-satellite testing, including the latest ones by Russia.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), there are 170 million pieces of space junk currently in orbit around Earth. Most of these are small, but some are large enough to pose a threat to space flights and orbital missions. Space junk, which is considered a type of pollution, has increased dramatically over the past decades – about 7,500 metric tons.
“Earth has its rings,” Jake Abbott, professor of robotics at the University of Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “They would just be made of junk,” he said. Abbott has worked with Magnet for years. He and his team of engineers are now working to find ways to clean up space junk using magnets.
Researchers say they have figured out how to use a magnetic field to rapidly spin a magnet and manipulate objects in the center, even if they are not made of magnetic metal – such as space debris. He tested his research by rolling a copper ball on a plastic raft in a tank of water. The magnet not only made the sphere rotate in a square but also rotated the ball.
Researchers say the technology could one day be used to allow robots to move junk into decomposing orbit or move it into space without physically touching it.
The research is published in a recent article in the journal Nature. Abbott says it’s now just a question of engineering: building and launching technology to form Earth’s own rings.