Space Engine Exploration Journal Part Two

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I think I found something else in Space Engine that’s worth showing off right away. It’s not one object, but one of the neatest systems I’ve seen so far. It contains an object with probably the highest Earth Similarity Index I’ve seen so far in this procedural generated universe.

I decided to mess around on the opposite end of the Milky Way galaxy from Earth, and about 50,000 light years away I found a gas giant orbiting in the habitable zone of a blue main sequence star (about eight Astronomical Units from a spectrum B9 V star). In this simulation and even according to what astronomers have figured out so far, gas giants in habitable zones have the potential to have habitable moons. Space Engine’s algorithm seems to think it’s possible to have essentially a whole miniature system of relatively pleasant planets orbiting a Jupiter or Saturn-like giant. More than once I’ve seen multiple water worlds orbit a gas giant like this, but it’s really rare that I see a mix of those and Earth-like worlds.

If you have Space Engine 0.973 installed, it’s the fourth planet orbiting the star “RS 8409-2297-4-605-805.” Two of its moons are “terras” with warm climates, continents, and oceans of liquid water, though no life because the system is only 33 million years old. Along with them is a water world.

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I’ll start with the real jewel of this system, which while physically more similar to Earth any anything I’ve found in this game, still manages to be odd. The sixth moon orbiting the gas giant manages an ESI of 0.981 — meaning it’s 98 percent like Earth, because it has about 96 percent of Earth’s diameter, 97 percent of its mass, gravity only five percent stronger than Earth’s, and 70 percent of Earth’s atmospheric pressure. From what I can gather it orbits the gas giant at something like 18 times the distance between Ganymede and Jupiter. Its host planet and sister moons look like little more than dots in the sky. The temperature ranges across the moon are also quite Earth-like, seemingly between the 50’s and the 90’s Fahrenheit.

However, at first glance, it looks nothing like Earth. The moon mostly looks like a blue, pale, and brown desert. Closer inspection reveals rivers and lakes of liquid water along with a large sea stretching upwards from its southern polar region.

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The next one — the closest moon orbiting the gas giant, probably looks more Earth-like at first glance, with big oceans, but physically isn’t. It’s maybe only half the diameter of the sixth moon and a third of the mass. Gravity is only 60% of Earth’s. It’s also pretty hot, with surface temperatures hovering around 120 or 150 Fahrenheit.

The moon’s position and orbit gives it a somewhat different sense of day and night compared to a normal planet. It’s tidally-locked to its host planet — always showing the same face to it, but different regions get what seems to be three different levels of light. Half the moon is in normal daytime, but while some portion is in night, another portion not facing the sun seems to get so much light reflected off the gas giant  that it’s in a sort of “not quite night” state. The size of this region changes drastically as the moon and planet orbit.

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Finally we have the oceania — the second-closest moon to the gas giant. It’s bigger than the aforementioned terra — roughly 80 percent Earth’s diameter but only 40 percent of its mass and with half its gravity. Out of the moons I’ve examined so far orbiting this gas giant though, it has the thickest atmosphere with 90 percent Earth’s atmospheric pressure. It’s still about as hot as the last terra I mentioned though. Its orbit causes the same kind of varied day-night system as on the other moon.

If you look up ocean planes on Wiki, astronomers believe their atmospheres tend to be mostly water vapor and very thick, producing a strong greenhouse effect. Not only that, but astronomers think these global oceans are far deeper than Earth’s. The ocean on this particular moon is 31 miles deep (Earth’s Challenger Deep is around six miles). At the bottom the immense pressure turns the water into a mantle layer of ice.

I’ve found some other unique objects in other systems in Space Engine, but it’s hard to say when I’ll post about them.

BULLETS:

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