That title is a little misleading, I know. It’s actually in reference to what my astrophysicist friend told me about the bigger planet in our system. The ridiculously awesome Jupiter.
A couple years back, the probe Juno inserted into Jupiter’s orbit with the simple, massive, mission of gathering data. Scientists, and the world, were astounded by the sheer amount of weirdness and awesome we learned. The cyclones at the poles, the wonky electromagnetic field, the sci-fi-esque core.
The core and ground are the parts that really stuck with me. Metallic hydrogen. When I first encountered the term, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what it was. The T-1000 from Terminator 2 came to mind at once. So, I started to look into it. My ideas got weirder. Jupiter took on a whole new place in my understanding of the Universe.
Metallic hydrogen is basically hydrogen, the gas we all know and love because it powers our Sun, that’s been squashed so tight, it becomes solid. Scientists are excited about this substance for a lot of reasons. It’s a superconductor, for a start. It also has the consistency of Jello. If an explorer is careful, they can walk and land on it, though my friend doesn’t recommend it.
But what if we did? That’s always the question we, as science fiction writers and scientists as our trusted allies, have. Some distant crew landing on the squishy, shifting ground of Jupiter and having a good look around at the chaotic morass of Jupiter’s dark sky. It must feel like walking underwater because of the pressure and damp. And the heat. Tucson as the monsoon rains just begin for the day.
There are other ideas, too. Jupiter is a failed proto-star and it would need 70 times its mass to properly ignite. Perhaps some crafty author might use that to mitigate the death of our own Sun, man-made or natural, and save a whole system from destruction. Or, possibly, when our Sun starts to balloon out into a red giant, Jupiter captures the shedding mass and ignites that way. A new star so our system and all life in it can continue.
Just some thoughts to get an author started on their own wild ride, Jupiter their destination. Enjoy.
Science in the pursuit of Fiction.