Sunday, December 20, 2009

The world of Cauldron

So DarkSyde emails me on Thurs (Dec. 17) asking if I can do an image of a planet just discovered circling a red star in the constellation Ophiuchus, about 40 light years from here. He needed it by 1 p.m. on Sunday. Burned out from doing
writing about 4,000 words per weekday on my two Chevenga stories (starting point here) for the last nine months, only a few hundred words into the Thursday segments, and busy with Christmas prep, I kind of balked, but eventually agreed. We went back and forth a few times and here's the one that went up on the Daily Kos front page.

As ever, DarkSyde wrote a beautiful caption.

To create an illustration, Karen Wehrstein and I assume Cauldron (Our working name, nothing official) is tide locked and thus rotating every 38 hours, about six times the mass of the earth and three times the radius, and that it is indeed composed mostly of H2O, i.e., water. A big, fat planet-sized spinning drop of dirty boiling water thousands of miles deep over a small rocky-metal core the size of our moon. That brings up some interesting physics and lends us one hell of an artistic license built on images of thunderstorms and cyclones, pics of gas giants and solar flares, and flavored with imagination.

From a vantage point perched high in the atmosphere, the red dwarf star glowers on the cloud drenched horizon. Under intense solar radiation, hydrogen and oxygen split up and react with trace elements like nitrogen or carbon forming pastel reds, yellows, and browns. Titanic convection and the planet's rotation produce fierce cyclones, streams and bands, the differential between permanent night and day sides fuel supersonic jet streams. Shown right a mountain of swirling stained water vapor -- perhaps better compared to under water black-smokers than garden variety thunderstorm cells -- the size of Iceland blasts hundreds of miles above twisted puffy ribbons of low laying crimson cloud. Far below and unseen, in the perfect pitch black lower atmosphere, water vapor is heated and pressurized until the phase differential between liquid and solid disappears. No clear surface, just an increasingly dense superheated fluid, until the water is crushed by sheer brute force into a dozen different kinds of exotic 'ice' hotter than burning coals.

Here's another version:

Nice place to visit...