University of Leicester Students Present Ideas to Make Star Wars-Style Shields

the Incom T-65 X-wing Starfighter (Disney Wiki)
the Incom T-65 X-wing Starfighter (Disney Wiki)

If you have often imagined yourself piloting your X-Wing fighter on an attack run on the Death Star, you’ll be reassured that University of Leicester students have demonstrated that your shields could take whatever the Imperial fleet can throw at you.

The only drawback is that you won’t be able to see a thing outside of your starfighter.

In anticipation of Star Wars Day on 4 May, three fourth-year Physics students at the University have proven that shields, such as those seen protecting spaceships in the Star Wars film series, would not only be scientifically feasible, they have also shown that the science behind the principle is already used here on Earth.

They have published their findings in the Journal of Special Physics Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

In the Star Wars movies, the latest of which began filming in April, spaceships are protected by a shield defense system that deflects enemy laser fire. In order to recreate this type of shield, the students assumed that a surrounding field of super-hot plasma would be used, held in place by a magnetic field around the ship.

The denser the plasma, the higher the frequency of electromagnetic wave (or laser radiation) will be deflected.

The principle can already be seen, not in a galaxy far, far away, but in the atmosphere around our own planet. It is seen in ‘over-the-horizon’ radio communications, used for decades in early warning RADAR systems and for long distance communications where satellite communications are not feasible.

Student Alexander Toohie said: “The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of several distinct layers, one of which is the ionosphere. The ionosphere is a plasma, and extends from roughly 50km above the surface of the Earth to the edge of space.

“Just like the plasma described in our paper, it reflects certain frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, in this case radio frequencies. Radio communications and RADAR can be beamed upwards toward the sky where it will be reflected back down toward the Earth. This method can be used to send communications over the horizon where radio transmissions would not normally be capable of reaching, much like using a mirror to look around a corner.”

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SOURCE: Phys.org

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