Friday, 15 January 2016

30.08.2127 - Oort Cloud

By Jedimaster (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Distance: 6030 AU from Earth | Content Flag: Public

One of the space telescopes in solar orbit has confirmed that a previously unknown body passed through the inner region of the Tau Ceti system. The calculated distance would have intersected the orbit of Tau Ceti e in 2090.

Radio telescopes have also confirmed several energetic bursts originating from the same region of the system, although they haven’t been able to determine their cause as yet.

Researchers back on Earth have made little progress on the original signals received in the 2076s . The accepted hypothesis is that they are a jumble of different signals from the planet. They are now considered to be leakage from the planet’s communications network, in the same way that our radio and television signals leak out into space. Although this would indicate a very powerful source to the transmissions.

With that conclusion, it appears ever more likely that there was intelligent life in the Tau Ceti system. Whether that life still exists is unknown, but I fear it is unlikely. The PCM raised an interesting possibility that the lifeform generating these transmissions isn’t native to Tau Ceti, but was passing through. That would explain why the original signals increased in strength and then faded away. It also raises the hope that they escaped the effects of the rogue planet.

There are a number of possibilities and we really need more information to narrow those down. In the meantime, we are looking a bit closer to home and adding to our already impressive tally of science by helping to confirm the existence of the Oort cloud. This volume of space was theorised to be a region of space where long-period comets are thought to originate.

The cloud is thought to range from around 3,000 AU and out as far as 100,000 AU. It is populated by small icy bodies remaining from the protoplanetary disc forming the solar system’s planets and moons billions of years ago.

Proving the existence of the Oort cloud meant finding enough icy bodies in the region to demonstrate an increased density compared to what we would see otherwise. That data took longer to accumulate than we expected.

Space isn’t truly empty, there are traces of matter and as we pass through we measure what particles we can. These are usually dust or tiny fragments of ice. Rarely do we discover something bigger than a golf ball. For the past two years we’ve tracked a slight increase in such objects, including a few boulder-sized lumps of ice.

The data has now reached a stage that we can confidently state that the results are statistically significant and the Oort cloud does indeed exist. We’ll continue to amass more data and see if we can find the outer edge of the cloud. If you have any questions then pass them along to mission control and they’ll transmit them to us.

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