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 Earth’s
water mass fraction in the light shaded region and is possible in
both shaded regions if the planetary water mass fraction is ten
times Earth’s.

A Steppenwolf planet’s 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 ")

Sierra Space Inflatable LIFE Habitat Burst Pressure Test
'It was like being inside a balloon...' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1961.

Space-Based Solar Power A Priority - European Space Agency
'...vast man-made disk of metal set spinning about the sun to supply the Earth with power.'

Goldilocks Zones Found On The Moon
Hopefully, there are no Mynocks in shadowed lunar craters, chewing on the power cables of spacecraft...

Spaceships Should Last So Long
'THE SPACE VESSEL was traveling swiftly… For over five thousand years they had Voyaged on and on.’ - E.C. Tubb, 1955.

 

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

LoadRunner Robot Works Alone, Or In A Group
'They marched in unison, seven of them...'

Sierra Space Inflatable LIFE Habitat Burst Pressure Test
'It was like being inside a balloon...'

Longest Immersed Tunnel Will Connect Denmark and Germany
'... iron tubes... the ends of the tubes were joined to each other...to preserve it from the action of the seawater.'

Alcohol-Sensing Cars - NTSB Catches Up With Philip K. Dick (1963)
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive....'

Solar-Powered Remote-Control Cockroaches!
'A cable, here, from the controller to the interface plug... wires from that to the brain.'

SolarBotanic Tree For Solar Energy - Would You Need A Forest, Or Just One?
'The slender stalks of a sunshade-photocell collector...'

Metaverse Hardware - Run And Flail Like A Maniac, Or Lie Quietly?
'Holodeck 4 was waiting to be programmed...'

Robot Food Delivery Coming To Campus Near You
'... he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Are Craiyon Images Puddinged, ala Philip K. Dick?
'I stood in line for half an hour for this, and it's just a blob!'

Hip'Safe Airbag For Seniors, From Helite
'Other airbags go off around her torso and pelvis...'

Soulaje Self-Administered Euthanasia Wearable Prototype
'A young man... advanced with nervous strides along the gravel path which leads to the bronze doors of the Lethal Chamber.'

Midjourney AI Creates 'Théâtre D'opéra Spatial', Wins Art Fair First Prize
'... we'll give him in his brain what he needs for creation.'

Mobot Robot Tests Smartphone Apps With Its Finger
'Rapidly, purposefully, the metallic fingers moved over the key-boards...'

Space-Based Solar Power A Priority - European Space Agency
'...vast man-made disk of metal set spinning about the sun to supply the Earth with power.'

Goldilocks Zones Found On The Moon
Hopefully, there are no Mynocks in shadowed lunar craters, chewing on the power cables of spacecraft...

Robotic Surgeons Outperform Human Surgeons
'...the objects moving about so gently and putting their instruments away were not living beings, but robots.'

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.