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Geostationary polar satellite

Using the earth's magnetic field to keep orbital objects above the poles
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How many of you have seen those funny magnetic tops that can levitate in midair? Neat, huh? All it takes is two oppositely charged magnetic fields, and some gyroscopic power to make things like this "levitate."

It may in theory be possible to use magnetic power to keep objects above the surface of the earth's magnetic poles in a similar way, perhaps even up in "orbital" space. You would need some solar pannels to create electricity so that the machine could power an electromagnet, and keep it's gyroscope running of course.

I don't know exactly what such a satellite would be used for, but I know there are a lot of uses for geosynchronous satellites near the equator, and I assume some of these uses (DirecTV, weather forecasts, etc.) could be applied to polar regions as well. Admittedly, the customer base may be a bit smaller.

CONSUMER WARNING: The geostationary polar satellite must be located above the shadow of the earth, unless it contains battery backup sufficient to keep it aloft for six months unpowered. Manufacturer is not responsible for loss of product due to magnetic precession, electromagnetic storms, or catastrophic shifts in the earth's magnetic poles. Like all space-based technology, the geostationary polar satellite is not intended for use beyond 15 years in operation. Buyer assumes all responsibility for facilitating a safe de-orbit.

ye_river_xiv, Dec 21 2006


       Just how strong do you think the Earth's magnetic field is?
st3f, Dec 21 2006

       // It may in theory be possible to use magnetic power to keep objects above the surface of the earth's magnetic poles // No, actually, it's not possible, even in theory.   

       The magnetic poles are a null zone - check out a field diagram of magnetic lines, and you'll see the lines all diving into the magnet (earth) at the poles. Likewise, when something encounters the field that the magnetic field can actually lift (an electron, for instance) it will skitter along the field lines until it reaches a point (polar region) where it dives down into the atmosphere and collides with gas molecules (aurora borealis / austraulis).   

       The good news is your satellite will crash in an area well away from population centers. The bad news is that is the first thing the satellite will do.
lurch, Dec 21 2006

       well actually [lurch] it will first fall at a high rate of speed then burn up in the atmosphere before crashing into an area well away from population centers.
jhomrighaus, Dec 21 2006

       Umm... this WOULD work (sort of). Approximate the Earth as a bar magnet. Approximate the satellite as another bar magnet. Put two bar magnets next to each other, with like poles near each other, and... they repel! Ignoring for the moment practical issues, why not?   

       Problems include that this is not a stable equilibrium (a suitable control system might solve that problem), and that the magnetic field strengths required would be quite large (would high-temperature superconductors be cold enough in space, and, if so, would they solve that problem?). But I don't think this is actually an idea that warrants immediate fishboning.
TerranFury, Dec 21 2006

       Lurch says the poles are a null area, wrong. these mag. lines match the same on a bar magnet. where is it strongest in this bar? at the poles! One problem is that earth's magnetic north/south is different from true N/S. Some scienctists also believe these mag poles are moving, and there is evidence that the poles have flipped throughout the ages.
the great unknown, Aug 08 2007

       You can't even balance two magnets down here on Earth using their repulsive forces alone - it's always an unstable equilibrium at best. Any magnetic repulsion system needs an active stabilizing system to avoid collapsing.   

       Add to that the fact that the Earth's magnetic field is extremely weak - even on the strongest magnets its force is minuscule compared to gravity.   

       Moving charged particles do "bounce" off the poles in the Earth's magnetic field, because they spiral around the field lines, and the spiral gets tighter and tighter and finally reverses direction as the lines get closer together at the pole. The aurora borealis (or aurora australis in the southern hemisphere) is where the most energetic charged particles manage to get right down to atmosphere before bouncing back up again - there are loads more that never get so far down.   

       Geostationary satellites are a subset of geosynchronous satellites - the ones that are in circular equatorial orbits, so they remain exactly above the same point on the Earth's surface all the time. They're never EXACTLY stationary, of course - but some are very close. Any slight eccentricity in the orbit makes them get a bit ahead during part of the day, and a bit behind at other times; any slight tilt in the orbit makes them move north and south on a daily basis - and of course any slight error in the orbital period makes them gain or lose steadily. In practice you always have all three errors to some degree.   

       A geosynchronous satellite has an orbital period exactly matching the (sidereal - star not Sun relative) day, but the orbit can be eccentric or tilted as much as it likes.
Cosh i Pi, Aug 08 2007

       There are uses for "statites" as Dr. Forward called his idea. But this idea isn't a way to make one. The magnetic field isn't nearly strong enough.
baconbrain, Aug 08 2007

       The magnetic field is weaker than the gravitational field.
marklar, Aug 09 2007

       //It may in theory be possible to use magnetic power to keep objects above the surface of the earth's magnetic poles//
//The good news is your satellite will crash //
//Some scienctists also believe these mag poles are moving, and there is evidence that the poles have flipped throughout the ages.//

       Perhaps this is why penguins don't watch satellite TV.
Ling, Aug 09 2007

       Maybe this could be done with magnetic fields, but it could also be done with solar sails. I'm surprised more 'bakers aren't for it.
Moonguy, Jun 09 2008


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