Señorx Oblong

Just learned about a really cool thing - Przybylski's Star. It's a "chemically peculiar" (Serious Astronomical Term) that's VERY weird indeed - weird elements like holmium, scandium, neodymium, and uranium present at 1,000x to 10,000x their abundance in our own Sun.

In fact, some even weirder elements - plutonium, einsteinium, californium - have been detected as well. Which is REALLY weird - those have short enough half-lives at a cosmic scale that we don't really observe those ANYWHERE in nature, because they disappear so quickly that they would have to have been produced very recently in cosmic time.

It's actually been proposed that the star may contain the theorized but as-yet-undiscovered "island of stability" isotopes of exotic superheavy elements like flerovium, or Element 120, or Element 126 - and that the reason we're seeing those strange radioactive elements is actually as decay products from these exotic isotopes.

This just seems like the sort of thing that is OBVIOUSLY the hook for a science-fiction novel.

Like, OBVIOUSLY what happened here is that a massive alien megastructure has crashed into the surface of the star, filling its outer layers with exotic and rare elements, possibly after some unknown disaster ripped apart their Dyson sphere and sent the fragments tumbling on unstable orbits, and obviously a scientific expedition is going to go there and find a debris belt of ancient alien hypertech and discover an Extremely Plot-Driving Secret.

@SenorOblong @cryptovexillologist Have you read Poul Anderson's 1977 novel Mirkheim?

Cover copy:
> A star explodes. And a billion years later, a galaxy explodes in war. When the heavy metal ruin of Mirkheim is discovered at the edge of Known Space, the gigantic planet becomes the center of a war that is fought in all the far reaches of Earth's dazzling and corrupt empire.

@SenorOblong Um. Even flerovium has a half-life measured in seconds – that may be relatively stable, but even so, it seems odd that there'd be enough of it to decay into measurable quantities of anything, yes?

I'm no physicist, but that's what I'm getting from a quick lookup.

The "island of stability" isotopes are predicted to have a much higher number of neutrons than the ones we've synthesized so far. The heaviest isotope of flerovium we've synthesized is Flerovium-284; the isotope of flerovium that scientists were predicting would be relatively stable is Flerovium-298. (Because then it would have two "magic numbers" of neutrons and protons, that would form stable full energy shells kiiiiinda-sorta like the way electrons do in noble gases.)

Basically, all of the superheavy elements that we synthesize are believed to be *way* low in neutrons, because we make them by smushing together lighter elements that are more proton-rich. We don't really have any idea how the heck to synthesize Flerovium-298; that's a lot of extra neutrons to squeeze in.

It's worth noting BTW that this is all pretty much just educated guesswork - the equations governing how neutrons and protons interact inside nuclei are so MONSTROUSLY difficult to solve for anything bigger than, like, helium that pretty much all of nuclear physics depends on rules of thumb, approximations, and educated guesses. Superheavy nuclei are ESPECIALLY poorly-understood, because they're a long ways from the kinds of nuclei we find in normal everyday elements.

Like, I believe Flerovium-298 is no longer believed to actually be in the center of the Island of Stability anymore?

@SenorOblong can you work a ringworld or something into this one somehow?

@brennen @SenorOblong No doubt it’s the Progenitors / Protectors regardless. We need to get there before the Kzin.

@SenorOblong it’s too bad we already have Krypton, otherwise we could make some DC world building canon IRL and name element 126 Kryptonite.

@SenorOblong had no idea about some of those elements, are you sure this isn't fake? it /really/ does sound like science fiction

@tsu Przybylski's Star is absolutely a real thing; you can Google it and find a Wikipedia page, multiple scientific papers, etc.

And the reason you hadn't heard of, say, flerovium is that it's a ridiculously heavy unstable synthetic element, that didn't even have a name until a few years ago, and has only been synthesized a few times in quantities of a few atoms. It's hypothesized that it may have longer-lived isotopes, but we haven't yet figured out how to make them.

@SenorOblong oh man now I want to read Deepness In The Sky again

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Monsterpit 👹

Monsterpit is a community of creatures and critters
For those who love monsters to be monsters they love.
Whether fur, scale, or skin; whether plural or 'kin–
If you don't feel quite human, come! You'll fit right on in.