The Wrath of Zolrak: A study into the failure of planetary engineering through the manipulation of celestial objects
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2392, Vol. 49(4)
Can an M-class planet become an O-class planet overnight? Can it be done without it being an Extinction Level Event for the advanced civilization upon it? Recent discoveries on Asav suggest, surprisingly, that the answer to both is yes, and that it was deliberately initiated by the inhabitants if not accidentally executed.
The planet Asav and its aquatic inhabitants, the Asavii, were encountered by the USS Vigilant [Reinard, USS Vigilant (NCC-75515), SD 239006] as a newly warp-capable species. Two years later, in an attempt to garner diplomatic ties with the Federation to an end of eventual membership, the Asavii invited Starfleet to engage in an archaeological expedition on their planet [Renos, USS Darwin (NCC-99312-A), SD 239204]. The nature of the archaeological finds suggested a former class-M environment on the planet, and subsequent data confirmed this revelation.
Asavii efforts are ongoing to find further documentation to form a complete situational synopsis, but the following video records [1, 2, 3] provide enough information to form an interesting hypothesis. In an effort to introduce water to their planet, the Asavii had at an undetermined point in their past tried to mine an ice satellite in a captured orbit. A catastrophic error brought the entire mass of the ice moon into the Asavii biosphere, completely covering the planet in 5 kilometers of water.
Trying to pinpoint the timeline of this event is exponentially difficult because the application of n-body problem formulation [Karl F. Sundman, University of Helsinki] cannot interpolate the removal, or previous addition, of a celestial body of considerable size to the equation. Whether the ice satellite was a captured planetesimal, or a coalesced planetary ring, would have differing effects on the Keplerian elements of Asavii’s orbital mechanics. The orbital perturbations of Asav are measurable, but to what degree the satellite acquisition perturbations were accentuated or obviated by the satellite loss perturbations are unknown. Therefore, mathematically tracing Asavii’s satellite loss perturbations to a temporal point of origin is exceedingly difficult.
What can be deduced with fair certainty is the geophysical effects of the event. Extensive tectonic torsion and deformation measurements were taken by the USS Darwin, as well as water depth measurements. Tectonic deformation patterns showed a period of water accretion on the planet’s surface spanning approximately 5 years, and this seems plausible considering the videographic proof of nascent warp bubble technology to prevent a full mass collision between the ice satellite and Asav.
With a mean global water coverage of 5 km, it is relatively easy to theorize the size of the ice satellite. Having a planetary mean radius of 5000 kilometers, in order to rise the water level by 5 kilometers would take approximately 1.71525 × 10^9 km^3 of ice. That necessitates a celestial object with a radius of approximately 750 km. This is not an insignificant celestial body, and is nearly comparable to Asav’s existing natural satellite. Though there was certainly the loss of some ice matter into space, such loss can be mitigated in the aforementioned calculations by the contraction of the planetary surface under the mass gain and expulsion of underground aquifers into the volume of surface water.
It is interesting to note that Asav managed to maintain a habitable temperature profile through its transformation from a class-M to a class-O world. There are several theories to support how this was maintained. The higher albedo of vaporous water clouds in the atmosphere was likely mitigated by effective thermodynamic atmospheric system latent heat transfer [Ervan Zol, Trill Science Academy], no doubt stimulated by the erratic tidal effects imparted by the loss of the ice satellite. Also, the contraction of the planetary body by the addition of water mass may have contributed to geothermal energy transfer, but this amount would likely be minimal.
Though efforts to manipulate celestial objects to prevent planetary catastrophe abound, to varying degrees of success [Spock, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) SDID 4842.6] [Picard, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), SDID 45470.1], this is the first documented example of such an ambitious effort to effect planetary engineering through orbital bombardment. Though it can be argued that an Extinction Level Event was averted by the use of warp bubble technology, the videographic evidence suggests that the plan was only conceived because of, and the resultant bombardment irresistibly initiated by, Asavii hubris in the use of the new and poorly understood technology.
Starfleet Science continues to monitor Asavii finds in their archaeological efforts. It is hoped that in time that new finds can assist in refining or refuting these calculations, and in dating the probable acquisition and loss of the ice satellite in orbit around Asav. Until that time, this study is a sobering reminder of the need for caution and moderation in the planetary engineering efforts of inhabited worlds. Though the Asavii civilization survived the event, and further studies on the Asavii’s rapid physiological adaptation is warranted, there is no denying that they faced a societal and technological regression spanning centuries or even millennia that they are only starting to rebound from.
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