According to existing theories, technologically advanced civilizations should be able to build gigantic space mega-structures. And such a mega-structure can be attributed to the “star engine”, an engine that can move the entire solar system to another place, if this suddenly arises such a need. In the video below, you can get acquainted with the operating principles of the so-called Caplan Thruster, which, directly using the energy of the sun, can move the solar system beyond our galaxy or even further. This engine got its name in honor of the scientist who developed the basic principles, astrophysicist Matthew Kaplan (Matthew Caplan) from the University of Illinois.
Why can mankind need to create and use such an engine? All this is due to the fact that the Universe is in constant motion and there is always a chance that the Solar System and the Earth in particular can be in the path of an asteroid stream, a wandering neutron star, a black hole or a star ready to explode a supernova. Even with the current level of technological development, mankind can receive a warning about impending disaster for several million years at the best. And the remaining time should be enough to develop and create a “star engine”, which will help our entire system to escape away from the cataclysm.
The Kaplan engine should be close enough to the Sun in order to use electromagnetic fields to collect the amount of hydrogen and helium necessary for its operation, which is released into space in the form of a solar wind. The engine will produce two reactive streams, one stream consisting of hydrogen, serves as something like an anchor that holds the engine in an unchanged position relative to the Sun. And the second stream, consisting of radioactive oxygen obtained in a fusion reactor, provides the main thrust, allowing the engine to push the Sun in the right direction.
Since one solar wind cannot provide the Kaplan engine with enough fuel, people will need a mega-structure like the Dyson sphere, which would reflect and focus sunlight in a specific place on the Sun, raising the temperature and the “output power” of the solar wind there. The good news is that for the movement of the entire solar system it will be enough only to “push” the sun. There will be no need to push the Earth, Mars, Jupiter and other planets separately, the gravitational forces of our star will take care of this.
Note that the Kaplan engine is not the first such idea. But, in relation to the Shkadov engine proposed by the scientist Leonid Shkadov, the new engine has a huge advantage – it is much more powerful and faster. At full power, Shkadov’s engine, which is a huge curved mirror, could theoretically shift our system 100 light-years away in 230 million years. Kaplan’s engine, on the other hand, can provide a distance of 50 light-years in just 1 million years. And this speed, according to preliminary calculations, should be enough so that our system can escape from any cataclysm approaching from the outside.
If humanity will need to move the entire Solar System in the future, the Kaplan engine is by far the best way to do this, although in the future scientists can come up with even more effective solutions. And at present, such a project can still be considered science fiction, since the level of modern technology is still not enough for its practical implementation.