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Sunday, May 24, 2015

GSE2 - Surprise Dwarfs and Water Giants

Two weeks out and I've put another few hundred light years behind me. I've been making maximum jumps. At first it was to just get where I was going. Lately it's been because the stars are further apart. I can really tell I've moved into the intra-arm region now. The other indicator is none of the systems I've landed in this week had been surveyed previously and only one was visited by another: either a prospector or a tourist, as they didn't bother to scan the one high metal content world orbiting the T Tauri star COL 359 SECTOR OX-J B38-0. I corrected the mistake, but that was the only star system with someone else's name on it.

[caption id="attachment_5052" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-0 A 1 COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-0 A 1[/caption]

This week I've only discovered one planet with life forms. It was a gas giant in COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-0 and it'd given rise to radioplankton - tiny carbon-based algae - living off the radiation flux of the behemoth planet. This system had two M type red dwarfs and two gas giants, many moons and lots of rubble.

[caption id="attachment_5053" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-8 A 4 COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-8 A 4[/caption]

I've had a bit more luck finding terraforming candidates. The first I came across was in COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-8 orbiting the M type main star of trinary system consisting of that main, a L type dwarf and a T type dwarf.

[gallery type="rectangular" size="medium" ids="5055,5056,5054"]

Two days later I hit a small bonanza of terraforming candidates orbiting a rare A type star. It was an curious trio of two water worlds with ammonia atmospheres and a high metal content planet with no atmosphere. They were tightly orbiting each other in the Goldilocks zone about 2200 light seconds (4.4 AU, nearly the distance to Jupiter in the Sol system) out from their 8768-degree-kelvin hot star. With the three other high metal content worlds in this system it should fetch a good commission.

However, the best was saved for last. Yesterday I jumped into COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97, which the computer lists as a binary system with a F type main star and a M class dwarf companion. That much is true enough. The F type and M type star orbit each other at about 150 light seconds making it a nice, close, but not too close, binary. The M type companion even had four metal rich nuggets orbiting closely to sweeten the pot. Combined with seven ringed gas giants, most of which have at least one metal rich ring, and this is quite a lucrative system.

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" ids="5060,5059"]

But that's not really a surprise. The real surprise was discovering the astronomical data on this system was possibly wrong. It turns out the fifth planet isn't really a planet but a Y type dwarf making it a third stellar companion - maybe.

[caption id="attachment_5061" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 5 COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 5[/caption]

This isn't the first time I've come across this particular surprise. I've encountered it one other time at WREDGUIA NI-I C23-14. Though these bodies have been confirmed to exist for a thousand years, being first positively identified by the ancient WISE telescope at the beginning of the 21st century, scientists still can't come to agreement as to whether these are failed stars or highly successful gas giants. They are planet sized and some have surface temperatures as cool as my cockpit. This particular Y dwarf has a surface temperature of 388 kelvin making it one of the hotter of its ilk. But one of the first Y dwarfs discovered by WISE, WISE 0855−0714, has a surface temperature of only about 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Seriously. Now you know why they vex astronomers so.

[caption id="attachment_5062" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9 COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9[/caption]

But the Y type dwarf wasn't the last surprise this system held in store for me. The ninth and last planet, another giant, looked normal enough as I approached it. But as soon as the detailed surface scan finished, I was dumb struck. I sat in my seat for several minutes just trying to take in the implication of what my readouts were telling me. Here, I'll let the data speak for itself.

[caption id="attachment_5063" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9 Info COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9 Info[/caption]

How is that even possible? The atmosphere is 98.4% water. You know, I've discovered planets with water atmospheres somewhat regularly. There was one in this system in a binary relationship with planet 6. But how do you get a water giant? Oh, I see what it says about a large icy body getting warm enough to melt and create a greenhouse effect keeping the ices vaporized. What I don't get is what would cause the melt in the first place. This water giant is in binary relationship with the eighth planet, but it isn't even close to warm enough to melt an icy world. The orbit is also too regular to inform me it is a captured satellite. The Y dwarf in this system is relatively close, but it isn't nearly hot enough to create a water giant. Is it? I'd find it a hard theory to believe considering astronomers can't even decide if it is a star. But the proof is in the measuring. I'll have to leave it to other's to figure out the mystery.

Me, I get paid for making discoveries and scanning them, not figuring out why they are. So I will move on from this odd system and find more. I have an intermediate destination in mind, but it's still about 1000 light years away. At this rate, having to scan each system I land in now, it'll take me weeks to get there. That's okay. There are plenty of mysteries in between I'm certain. If your curious to see more about these systems you can always have a look at them in my video catalog.


And as always, fly careful.

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