Age Of Cosmic Exploration - Chapter 59
Chapter 59: Target! Meteorite Belt!
Man has never been so anticipatory of darkness.
Similarly, man has never been so cornered to have all of their hopes placed on one singular group of twelve million people.
At this moment, the Hope was leaving the nebulous cloud and entering the darkness-suffused space. Witnessing the world darkening around them, everyone on the Hope breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The few months the Hope was travelling around the nebula, things were working out according Yao Yuan's plan. Since he knew suppression wouldn't work, his policy was to try to assimilate the people into the Hope's governmental duties. The aim was to implant into the people's minds that there was no difference between the government and the civilian, that they were all people of the Hope.
The first step was to relocate people from the campgrounds into simple tenements. Simultaneously, this encouraged job applications because that was the prerequisite for better housing. The second step was to purposely leak some information into the public... However, the leak was, for the most part, excessive. People's new jobs had offered them an inkling to the reality that some crisis was assailing the Hope.
The leak merely confirmed their suspicions. After all, these twelve million citizens weren't dummies. They could draw logical inferences from observations. Rather, the people who underestimated them were the dummies.
Even before the ground-breaking recruitment policy, a section of the public had guessed that the Hope was facing some problems...The fact that their jobs allowed them access into all areas within the Hope with the exception of the Barracks and the biomes only aided more people into understanding the predicaments facing the Hope.
Due to all of these reasons, the public had figured out how many more years the Hope could still linger around in space. Granted their prediction couldn't be as accurate as the experts', they weren't so far off. Therefore, all of the Hope was of one mind that they could only survive five more years in space without landing.
And thanks to the sense of loyalty cultivated by Yao Yuan's policy, even without direct orders, the public started taking steps to care for the Hope. For example, they started policing their food and electricity wastage. There was a general sense of renewed vigor on the Hope to do the best by the people's temporary home.
However, many realized this vigor belied an underlying fear. If they couldn't find more supplies soon, the Hope was definitely on its last lap towards death.
Hope, though, came ever so suddenly. After a few months of circling around the nebula, the bluish glow that had become familiar to the residents of the Hope was suddenly replaced by the deep darkness of space.
The moment the Hope got far enough from the nebula's static interference, all of its scouting devices were instantly activated. The reconnaissance took almost nine hours to complete, and its result was promptly collected and sent to the main conference room to be discussed. The discussion was between Yao Yuan and representatives from the Academy.
’’As we had anticipated, this is a newborn star system. The star is evolving from its protostar stage to its main sequence star stage. To be precise, according to our readings of the nebulous cloud, the star could very well be right in the middle of that process. In other words, this is a very young star we've happened upon,’’ an astronomer read from his report.
The birth of a star, according to current understanding, started with the accumulation of nebulous clouds. In its initial stage, the cloud was so widespread that with the naked eye, one would not be able to tell that it was happening. Perhaps from a distance of 100 light years away, at most, one would be able to detect a barely discernable misty fog.
To be able to witness its glow with man's naked eye meant that the accumulation had reached its latest stage where the concentration of the nebula was at its highest. The next step, according to scientists, would be preparation for the birth of a new star.
The main constituent in a nebula was the element of hydrogen. When enough of it accumulates, its mass becomes so large that the gravitational energy between the hydrogen atoms will be transmuted into thermal energy. At this stage, a protostar is born. Its core will continue to heat up until it reaches about 700 million degrees, where nuclear fusion will occur. This reaction increases the protostar's temperature to about one billion degrees, where the surrounding nebula matter is absorbed into the formation of a new star.
And according to the Hope's surveillance, the star of the system they were in was reaching the end of its formation process. It was collecting the last of the nebula matter around it.
’’You mean to tell me that while we were trying to find our way out, we could have wandered into an unstable burning star?’’ questioned Yao Yuan, with a hint of fear in his voice.
The famous astronomer who stood on the podium replied with a smile, ’’Don't worry, Major. Heat coming from a star would be so pronounced that we would have picked up on it through even the nebula. We would not blindly steer the ship into it. Furthermore, it is rather fortunate that a star is forming. It's because it is in such a late formation stage that the nebula cloud around us was so thin. If not, we would not be able to escape it in our lifetime.’’
Nodding his head, Yao Yuan continued, ’’Alright, let's put that aside for now. What about intergalactic storms? Is there danger of intergalactic disasters during this stage?’’
The astronomer on stage hesitated before breaking into another smile. ’’I don't think that's possible... Of course, Major, you have to understand that this is the first time we are able to observe this miraculous process at such close range. To witness a burning star absorbing nebula matter, that's every astronomer's dream...
’’In any case, the star is currently absorbing matter at a stable rate, which means that its inner temperature is on a slow rise. Until it reaches the main sequence stage, there won't be any changes that would concern us. In other words, this means that this solar system is also still forming. According to our satellite pictures, there is no observable planet within our observable range. However, there is a cluster of nebula matter half a month of sailing away from our current location. And incidentally, there is a meteorite belt surrounding it.
’’According to our observations and calculations, there is a high possibility that this nebula clump will give birth to a gas giant. This means that the meteorite belt will most probably become an asteroid belt similar to that of Jupiter's. Of course, comparatively speaking, the meteorite belt is much smaller in size, and this leads into the most interesting part of our surveillance...’’
The astronomer excitedly punched in some buttons on the podium and soon after, a picture was projected on the wall behind him.
Barely containing his glee, the astronomer pointed at a spot on the picture, saying, ’’Everyone, please focus your attention on this spot here. Wait, let me enlarge it...
’’What you're seeing here is a more concrete and substantial meteorite belt. In fact, as you can see, most of the meteorites are slowly coming together ! See, right there!
’’This represents the initial stage for the formation of a terrestrial planet! As time goes on, interaction between mass and gravity will pull all of these materials together and coagulate into a planet. Of course, that might take a few zillion years to complete...
’’But what is most important to us is this cluster of meteorites, where the largest is ten times bigger than the Hope. It is our belief that they are rich in minerals like iron, copper, and zinc. Furthermore, it is certain that they contain radioactive substances like uranium ore. Also, I dare say that since this is a forming terrestrial planet, it might even contain minerals that we have not seen before, minerals that disappear after a planet is formed... These are all valid possibilities!’’
The astronomer's final sentence struck a chord with Yao Yuan.
’’Then let's start moving! There's where we can refill our stockpile!’’
1. I'm assuming we're talking about another meteorite belt now, since this is now about a terrestrial planet.