A Few Dyson Spheres in Every Galaxy

A Dyson Sphere is probably one the largest artificial constructs ever imagined. What is a Dyson Sphere? There are a few variants on this idea proposed by Freeman Dyson. The variant of particular interest to me is the “shell” variant; a structure completely encapsulating a star so that all of it’s energy can be harnessed. The Dyson Sphere not only encapsulates a star, it also extends past the distance of the earth’s orbit around the sun.

Let’s get some perspective on this. The sun is massive. You could fit 1.3 million earths inside of our sun. Here is a picture to scale that shows the earth and the sun. Keep in mind the distances to the planets are NOT to scale. You may have to enlarge the photo to see the earth.

The Earth is Tiny

The Earth is Tiny

As I mentioned above, the distances of the planets from the sun is not to scale in the photo above. It is actually impossible to show both the sizes and distances to scale in one photo and still be able to see our planet. Here is a picture of earth’s orbital distance to scale.

At This Scale Our Sun is Also Tiny

At This Scale Our Sun is Also Tiny

Here is a scale diagram of a Dyson Sphere. The Dyson Sphere is an absolutely GARGANTUAN structure!

An Interior Surface Area Equivalent to More than 200 Million Earths

An Interior Surface Area Equivalent to More than 200 Million Earths

Why build something like this? Every second the sun produces enough energy to supply ALL of earth’s energy needs for 500,000 years. Imagine that. If we were able to harness all of the energy from our sun for only 1 second, human kind would not have to produce any energy for 100s of 1000s of years.

How Do We Build a Dyson Sphere?

Using conventional means of construction would be out of the question when tackling the engineering feat of building a Dyson Sphere. There is simply not enough matter on earth to create a sphere millions of times bigger than earth. If we combined all of the rocky planets in our solar system, there would still not be enough matter.

There was a Star Trek episode titled “Relics”, where the crew of the Enterprise encountered a Dyson Sphere. Their sophisticated sensors did not detect the structure because of the immense gravitational distortion it caused. Unlike a star or black hole, a Dyson Sphere probably would not emit intense radiation. Present day humans and humans from the year 2368 would have a hard time detecting it.

The Enterprise ends up inside the sphere, see below. Notice how the interior becomes the living surface area with land, water and an atmosphere clinging to the inside “walls”. But why bring up Star Trek?

Star Ship Travels Inside a Dyson Sphere

Star Ship Travels Inside a Dyson Sphere – an interior surface area equivalent to 200 million earths.

Besides being a fan of Star Trek, the science fiction inventions pioneered by the show hold the answer to creating a Dyson Sphere. Einstein gave us E=MC2 (squared). Matter and energy are the same phenomenon only in different forms. Like water vs steam. In the Star Trek universe (and in our future) humans master converting energy to matter and vice versa. They use a device called a replicator. It creates food, clothing, building materials and just about everything else from energy. This is scientifically possible, but we have not discovered exactly how to do this…yet.

Eventually human kind will invent replicators, devices that create solid matter from energy. We already have manufacturing robots that can create more manufacturing robots which can in turn, create more and so on. When you combine the concept of a replicator and a self duplicating machine, we are one step closer to creating a Dyson Sphere.

Millions of self replicating, solar powered devises or factories could be stationed in orbit around a star. All of the energy needed to power and create these devises would come from the host star. However, we would not need to start with millions of these devices. We could start with 1-100. They would self replicate and their numbers would increase exponentially. Now, with a limitless supply of energy/matter, we can begin the task of building the Dyson Sphere.

If we have thought of it, chances are, other intelligent life out there, maybe thousands or millions years ahead of us has already created it. Given the fact that there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy and many more planets than that, I would bet intelligent life has arisen many times. There could be Dyson Spheres scattered through out our galaxy with trillions of life forms living inside.



30 thoughts on “A Few Dyson Spheres in Every Galaxy

  1. Ella

    i love Star Trek. Next Generation was my favorite, and i think i learned more science from that show than anything i ever learned in school, lol! thankfully most of it was scientifically correct!!! I remember the whole dyson sphere totally blew my mind, just the idea of how huge it was seemed unfathomable to me, but the writers of the show always did a great job of explaining everything, so even I could understand it (and that’s saying a lot, lol!) God Bless Rick Berman!

  2. Marcus Lutz

    A great post about Dyson Spheres, and you cleared up something I had obviously misunderstood about their employment. I didn’t realize the theoretical plan called for building Dyson Spheres around an entire solar system. I had understood the concept was the sun alone would be encapsulated. I remember thinking, “If the sun is enclosed to harness it’s power, most of that power will be used to replace the light and heat lost by the sun. I’ll have to pay closer attention when discussing theoretical physics in the future.

  3. Harry Linn

    Ideas like this and nuclear fussion really excite me. The need for power is only going up, especially as our computers and electronics get more powerful and more mobile.

  4. SpaceCowboy

    I’m such a huge nerd, i just went and watched the entire episode to re-fresh my memory, gotta love Scottie!!! Star Trek episodes never get old for me, I think because of all the amazing ideas like this dyson sphere.

  5. Patrick Jones

    I can not believe there is an episode of the original Star Trek I didn’t see. The theory of a Dyson Sphere being used to harness the energy of the sun is what interested me in the article, as does anything relating to alternative energy. But I am a huge Star Trek fan and either I forgot about the episode you mention or I missed it. Thanks for the great article, now I have to go and Google “Star Trek Dyson Sphere” to see if I can find a full version online.

  6. John

    The Dyson Sphere is an amazing theoretical concept, and anything harness naturally occurring energy is worth considering. Ironically, by the time the technology is in hand to actually build a Dyson Sphere the financial resources to do so will have probably been made from fossil fuels, which means the energy generated will probably be controlled but Gulf, Shell, Exxon, BP and so on.

  7. amylee

    My husband is a biologist and he is always talking about things that happened ‘long ago’ and i assume ‘long ago’ is like before we got married, lol, but when he says it, he means before dinosaurs. its always amazing to me how scientists can make the earth seem so very tiny compared to the sun, like the sun is this mega gigantic thing. but then i am thinking, i LIVE on that tiny little earth and it is HUGE, lol! i really enjoyed the picture of the sun compared to all the planets, it really is unfathomable to me to think about things on such a grand scale. i can see the photo, and when i look up i can see the sun or stars, but i just can’t even imagine how big these things really are. and don’t get me started on the dyson sphere! to me, a Dyson is my vacuum cleaner, lol!

  8. Sam Miller

    Just over 100 years ago flying became a reality. Today thousands of people are flying about the planet on a daily basis, and a few lucky souls leave the planet on occasion to venture into space. It may take a few hundred years more for a Dyson Sphere or some similar invention to become a reality, but at our current pace of technological advancement it’s only a matter of when, not if the power of the sun is harnessed.

  9. Shawana

    Oh god, I love to live in that era where we can have a Dyson sphere. Hopefully I still make it to experience this magnificent marvel. The idea of creating food just from the energy of a Dyson sphere is very intriguing for me. Imagine, if people on earth have that kind of technology then lots of problems are going to be solved. You mentioned that with we can transform energy into matter like transforming some of then energy into food. But do you also know what its limits are? Like, can we also produce gas from it or any of the sort?

  10. Tavernier

    Making fantasy become a reality seems to be the common thing nowadays with our generation. Solar powers are the idea that fancied men before and now this, a Dyson sphere that can create energy into matter. I remember a game called Supreme commander where the same concept was used. Turning large volumes of energy into mass and anything else that the players will need. It seems even that game can come true now with this kind of energy source.

  11. JJ Spencer

    I can see a class of students far off in the future listening to a virtual teacher explaining how their ancestors once burned wood, then oil made from animal fat, then coal, followed by petroleum. That they erected devices to harness the wind too, and even tried generating heat and light using nuclear fission. The class is aghast. A student asks the holographic teacher, “Was there no sun back then?” The educator program says, “Of course there was, but it was thought to be too costly a source of energy to develop.” The student asks, “Then when did our ancestors finally create Dyson Spheres?” The answer… “When they consumed everything that was combustible, leaving only wind which wasn’t enough to sustain their energy needs.” – My futuristic example of necessity being the mother of invention.

  12. Steven Moran

    I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t say for sure what will or won’t happen decades from now, or a century or two into the future. But two hundred years ago people were struggling with a workable means to fly, and today we’re close to launching commercial spacecraft to take tourists into space, a Dyson Sphere or other technology to harness the sun’s energy is entirely possible.

    1. oportosanto

      That is for sure, technology is advancing faster than we could ever imagine, so it’s perfectly possible that a Dyson Sphere to be a reality in some decades. At least technically and if profit coming from it is seen, or else it won’t be made much investment to it.

  13. Tony O

    But what would happen after thousands or tens of thousands of years? Isn’t space expanding? If so, would the Dyson Sphere slow down the expansion of our solar system? Maybe this is something to be concerned after millions of years, but the thought had occurred to me. I didn’t even know what Dyson Sphere was before reading it here, so it’s all kind of new to me. I’d like to see us build a halo-like structure before we attempt something like this though. That would be awesome!

    1. anorexorcist

      I agree with you, if they are planning to actually do this one day they need to take this type of things in count, and it would also be good that they would inform us about this type of questions.

  14. Jasmine2015

    Dyson spheres sounds like a cool construct. I wish I could see something like this built within my own time but that probably won’t happen anytime soon.

  15. spaceboytaylor

    A device like that is far past my comprehension. I can barely imagine the distance between me and the next continent, let alone an object that is bigger than the entire galaxy that we haven’t even come close to leaving as people. As technology gets better though, humanity will evolve to understand this probably as it becomes more of a regular thing.

  16. Polaris

    If every second the Dyson Sphere absorbs enough energy to fuel earth’s needs for 500.000 years then we don’t even need to make a full Dyson Sphere, we only need to strategicaly place sattellite panels around the earth in tune with the earth & sun orbit to always face the sun, which is much more affordable.
    Now consider that there’s a new invention out there with lightweight super-efficient bendable solar panels that would reduce the cost of settup by a lot, cutting down on the weight that a rocket expedition would need to carry.
    The only problem I see is emiting that harvested energy back to earth because you can’t very well lay a big cable from here to space. So yeah, Nicola Tesla’s wireless energy transmition scemes would help out a lot here.

  17. oportosanto

    This is another fascinating concept I never heard of before. Let me see if I got this correctly, this was mentioned in a fictional show (Star Trek) and after that science tried to build that in reality?

  18. Pingback: Follow Up Post on Dysons Spheres | The Humble Futurist

  19. SirJoe

    If it that massive it would take various lifetimes to build. We have done such a great job of destroying earth that I doubt we could even come close to build something like that. Every country would have to be in sink and work for the same common goal. Just that alone would take for ever to get right let alone actually starting to build the structure.

  20. FFExplorer

    Would we need a whole, complete sphere, though? I mean, if 1 second of harnessed energy can power the earth for half a million years, there doesn’t seem to be a need for the whole sphere. Especially when you consider that we can’t actually store that much energy.

    With this in mind, your proposal on how to build the structure becomes infinitely more realistic. Self-replicating robots building something 1/1000th the size of a full Dyson Sphere could not only power the Earth for hundreds of years per second, but give us enough energy to really start experimenting with things like deep-space probes and the like. Nicely done!

  21. anorexorcist

    I read this post a few days ago and I’m still kind of frustrated that this isn’t possible yet, imagine how many energy would we be able to produce? That would definitely be a good thing for the economy of a lot of countries. But on the other day, I find this idea quite scary… As individuals we are already really isolated and it would be a tragic comedy to see that we would be isolated with only a couple of more planets. I think that it would also affect the exploration out of our world.

  22. brdwlk

    Articles like this are simultaneously humbling and awe-inspiring.

    Humbling, in that it checks our ego as humans by reminding us that we are small and truly insignificant within the universe. As @amylee suggested, the Earth feels so large to us because we live on it, but when the Earth is shown to scale compared to astronomical distances… it’s humbling.

    Awe-inspiring, in that us tiny humans can even contemplate such technological marvels, let alone accomplish them. I have no doubt that we will accomplish things of this scale.

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