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I am working on this planet that has several moons and - possibly - rings. In the planet's earliest era after its inception, it was hit by a large meteor that dislodged huge chunks of earth. I'm wondering if it's possible for a planet and its satellites to be so heavily magnetized that a floating island could exist lodged between the pull of the planet and its satellites.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you. It does answer little, but mostly no. The answer on quantum levitation and supergravity was enlightening. The suggestions of using thick atmospheres and light gasses produced by organisms and trapped in geological structures reaffirmed its likelihood on my planet - which is very humid - but I'm focusing heavily on the factor of magnetism causing the pieces of broken-off earth to remain suspended in the air. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2022 at 4:50

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Aliens did it

As mentioned by Robert Rapplean, and the answer linked by Little Pickle, floating islands is just not doable as a natural occurrence. But that doesn't mean it can't be something encountered by your characters.

This planet was cracked open by some ancient impactor. That means its deep interior is much more accessible to industrious folks whose goals might be anything from straightforward mining, to scientific study of planetary cores, to physics research isolated from high-energy particles, or even military strategy. A planet like this is going to be a rare find, meaning it will definitely attract spacefaring civilizations.

So, assert that aliens did come here eons ago, and erected floating islands using their advanced technology because that kind of spatial configuration suited their purpose: either it was necessary for the work they were doing, or their culture drove them to establish these physically disconnected landmasses.

Now the aliens are gone, but their construction remains. They built to last, the technology harnesses some natural energy source, and the machinery requires very little maintenance (or is self-maintaining, via AI robots or nanites or whatever).

Your characters never need to discover any of these details. You want floating islands? You've got them. Since the aliens are gone, and seemingly left no other trace of their presence (or no other trace has survived -- perhaps picked clean by later visitors), you're left with something that appears to be naturally occurring for all intents and purposes.

A story is not necessarily better for presenting an exhaustively detailed explanation for every story fact, something we seem to be losing sight of in this age where every story is expected to spawn a franchise.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think "aliens did it" could be used for almost anything, but I give you upvote anyway. it's a serious plot line commitment, but would be more fun. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2022 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ In fact, Dave Freer used it in Cloud Castles. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    May 8, 2022 at 19:02
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I don't believe so, no. Magnetic levitation is notoriously difficult to balance. If you're talking about levitating off of a strong planetary magnetic field, then you're definitely out of luck. That would be like trying to balance a pencil on a wall. The forces are just going the wrong direction.

If you had reverse polarity fields in a circle around a magnetic mountain, the mountain would attempt to slide off of them, or would flip over. You might be able to tether the bottom of the mountain to the ground, but then it wouldn't be floating.

So, for a naturally formed configuration, I don't seen any way that this could exist. The satellites would make it even worse, perturbing them out of whatever equilibrium they could establish.

Let's say you had a moon in geosynchronous orbit, tide locked with a magnetic core pointing at the planet. Magnetism is much, much stronger than gravity, and decreases with the square of the distance. If the magnetic pull were strong enough to lift something off of the ground, it would pull it closer to the moon, which would increase the pull, which would yank it completely off of the planet.

So, no, no magnetically flying mountains.

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It's quite a stretch

It would be a one-in-a-quadrillion chance, but it could be possible that some landmasses ended up smack middle in-between the gravity pulls of the main planet and one of the moons and now they're being pulled by an equal force towards both sides, remaining in place.

1.) The landmass would have to maintain a constant distance both between the planet and the affiliated moon, otherwise it would be pulled towards one end or the other.

2.) The landmass is going to be tidally locked to the planet due to its proximity, there's no way around that and, due to its negligible size compared to it, its own atmosphere and gravity would be nearly non-existent.

3.) Due to the gravity difference between the planet and the affiliated moon, the landmass would have to be SIGNIFICANTLY closer to the moon rather than the planet, which would effectively put it at the very edge or even outside of the planet's atmosphere, way out of the habitable area so it couldn't support life unless artificial, fully sealed colonies are built on it.

4.) The sheer size of this landmass could be just large enough to accommodate a small city and it could only serve as the pitstop travel point between the planet and the affiliated moon. There's no feasible way this landmass could be self-sufficient unless you really stretch reality. The size of the landmass must remain negligibly small, nearly unnoticeable compared both to the moon and the planet so it would remain locked in-between them.

5.) One could desperately hope the moons are aligned properly so their individual gravities do not cause further complications for any landmasses they happened to have pulled to float away from the planet. The worst imaginable scenario could occur if one of the lower moons gets too close to a floating landmass it isn't affiliated with and ends up slingshotting it into another moon, causing a chain reaction that could easily devastate the whole system.

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Hypothetically, yes, but it would need to be perfectly balanced otherwise the island would simply flip over and the repelling force would become an attracting one. Causing it to crash to the surface. A magnetic field that strong would also effect any ferrous metals for miles around making things like iron tools or steal armor unusable.

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