Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Steppenwolf: Interstellar Rogue Planets May Support Life

Rogue planets are planets that were formed in the usual way in a solar system, but which are "kicked out" by slingshot interactions with other bodies in the system.

Two researchers at the University of Chicago, Dorian Abbot and Eric Switzer, have calculated that an Earth-like rogue planet could support life in liquid oceans that are heated from below by the planet's core, and insulated by a thick layer of liquid ice.

They call such a body a Steppenwolf planet "since any life in this strange habitat would exist like a lone wolf wandering the galactic steppe."


(Regions in which a subglacial ocean could exist)
Diagram depicting, as a function of planetary mass and
temperature at the top of the ice, regions in which a subglacial
ocean could exist on a rogue planet if heat is lost through the
ice only by conduction. The lower dashed curve is the minimum
possible ice top temperature allowed to radiate the geothermal heat
flux in steady-state. The upper dashed curve corresponds to the
melting point of CO2. A subglacial ocean is possible for Earthís
water mass fraction in the light shaded region and is possible in
both shaded regions if the planetary water mass fraction is ten
times Earthís.

A Steppenwolf planetís lifetime will be limited by the decay of the geothermal heat flux, which is determined by the half-life of its stock of radioisotopes and by the decay of its heat of formation. These decay times are ∼1−5 Gyr, so its lifetime is thus comparable to planets in the traditional habitable zone of main-sequence stars.

If a Steppenwolf planet harbors life, it could have originated in a more benign era before ejection from the host star. Alternatively, life could originate after ejection around hydrothermal vents, which are a proposed location for the origin of life on Earth. If life can originate and survive on a Steppenwolf planet, it must be truly ubiquitous in the universe. We have shown that a rogue planet drifting through interstellar space could harbor a subglacial liquid ocean despite its low emission temperature, and so might be considered habitable. Such an object could be detected and followed-up using current technology if it passed within 1000 AU of Earth.

Science fiction writers have speculated on the idea of rogue planets. In his beautiful 1977 novel Dying of the Light, George R.R. Martin writes about a world named Worlorn, a rogue planet discovered by the race of Man in the distant future. When the path of the object was plotted, it was clear that it would make a single close approach to the Hellcrown, a multiple star system. Fifty standard years of sunlight would briefly warm this wandering world, the venue for the greatest festival ever held...

There was a century of storms as Worlorn neared the light: years of melting ice and volcanic activity and earthquakes. A frozen atomosphere came, bit by bit, to life and hideous winds howled like monster infants. All this the outworlders faced and fought.

The terraformers came from Tober-in-the-Veil, the weather wardens from Darkdawn... The men of High Kavalaan supervised it all, since High Kavalaan claimed the rogue... At last Worlorn was gentled. Then cities rose, and strange forests flowered ... and animals were set loose to give the planet life.

In ai-589 the Festival of the Fringe opened.. On that first day the Toberians let their stratoshield shimmer, so the clouds and the sunlight ran and swirled in kaleidoscope patterns. Other days followed, and the ships came...
(From Dying of the Light)

From The Steppenwolf: A Proposal For A Habitable Planet in Interstellar Space via MIT's Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/9/2011)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

First Ever Proof Of Water On Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

Gigantic Space Sunshade Would Fight Global Warming
'...the light of the sun had been polarized by two crossed fields so that no radiation could pass.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1953.

Untethered Spacewalk's 50th Anniversary
'But that space walk of mine wasn't so very amazing.' - Dom Passante, 1939.

ESA Designs Huge Inflatable Moonbase
'It was like being inside a balloon; indeed, that was exactly where he was.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1961.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Ulm Sleep Pods For The Homeless
'The lid lifted and she crawled inside...'

Prophetic Offers Lucid Dreaming Halo With Morpheus-1 AI
''Leads trail away from insertion points on her face and wrist... to a lucid dreamer...'

More Like A Tumblebug Than A Motorcycle
'It is about the size and shape of a kitchen stool, gyro-stabilized on a single wheel...'

Tesla Camera-Only Vision Predicted In 1930's SF
'By its means, the machine can see.'

First Ever Proof Of Water On Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.'

Aptera Solar EV More Stylish Than Heinlein Steel Tortoise
'When confronted by hills, or rough terrain, it did not stop, but simply slowed until the task demanded equaled its steady power output.'

Gigantic Space Sunshade Would Fight Global Warming
'...the light of the sun had been polarized by two crossed fields so that no radiation could pass.'

Untethered Spacewalk's 50th Anniversary
'But that space walk of mine wasn't so very amazing.'

ESA Designs Huge Inflatable Moonbase
'It was like being inside a balloon; indeed, that was exactly where he was.'

AlphaGarden Robot Cares For Gardens Better Than Humans
'...a simple clock-set servok with pipe and hose arms.'

Let's Make Slaver Sunflowers! Engineering Plants To Reflect Light
'The mirror-blossom was a terrible weapon.'

TeslaBot Uber Driver (2024) And The Automatic Motorist (1911)
'Robots have worse problems than anybody'

DiffuseBot Uses Generative AI To Invent New Soft Robots
'It embodies several small-scale multiple stampers, apparently for dealing with sheet metal.'

Philips Smart Palm Recognition Smart Deadbolt
'A palm lock must be keyed to one individual's hand shape...'

BMind Smart Mirror from Baracoda
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the greatest wellness of all?

Ballie Your AI Robot Companion From Samsung
Projects your content anywhere you like.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.