What would happen if we pulled out Mars’s iron core with a magnet?


Dead Planets Society is a podcast that takes outlandish ideas about how to tinker with the cosmos – from snapping the moon in half to causing a gravitational wave apocalypse – and subjects them to the laws of physics to see how they fare. Listen on Apple, Spotify or on our podcast page.

Feelings about Mars run strong in the planetary science community – many love it because of how much we know about it, while others resent the overwhelming attention it has received at the expense of other worlds in our solar system. But in this episode of Dead Planets Society, sentiment does not get in the way of the central goal: absolutely wrecking the Red Planet.

In this episode, Mars’s very redness may prove its demise. The red hue of Martian soil comes from iron oxide, and iron’s magnetic properties inspired our hosts, Chelsea Whyte and Leah Crane, to explore the possibility of destroying Mars with huge orbiting magnets.

Iron oxide itself is not magnetic, but Mars does have a core of liquid iron. Our hosts are joined this episode by volcanologist Robin George Andrews to consider how a giant magnet would affect this core.

Depending on the orbit of the huge magnet, the core could be simply disturbed so much that it would slosh around, causing fissures and volcanism and maybe eventually the complete disintegration of the planet. Or it could be pulled from deep underground through pre-existing vents, like those at the top of the huge Martian volcano Olympus Mons.

When it reaches space, the liquid iron would freeze into a glittering metallic statue. Much of it might accumulate on the magnet itself, turning it into a sort of enormous iron-shielded bullet hurtling through the solar system.

In the process, Mars would be left hollow. This alone would be a serious problem for the planet, leading to the outer layers crunching and grinding together to fill the empty space. Or the space could be filled with something else – the possibilities are endless and potentially truly disturbing.

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