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Centauri Dreams

A Pulsar Habitable Zone?

20 Dec 2017, 14:55 UTC
A Pulsar Habitable Zone? NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC)
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Life and pulsars don’t seem to mix. But science fiction hasn’t shied away from making the connection, as witness Robert Forward’s Dragon’s Egg (Ballantine, 1980). In the novel, a species called the cheela live on the surface of a neutron star, coping with a surface gravity 67 billion times stronger than that of Earth. An interesting consequence: The cheela live at an accelerated rate, going from the development of agriculture to high-tech in little more than a month, as perceived by the human crew observing the course of their rapid development.
Now we have news that two astronomers are considering habitable planets in orbits around pulsars, a venue that to my knowledge Forward never considered, but perhaps more recent science fiction writers have (let me know if you have any references). Alessandro Patruno (Leiden University), working with Mihkel Kama (Leiden and Cambridge University) see reasons for thinking that life might emerge in such an environment, though the kind of atmosphere that would sustain it would be like nothing we’ve yet encountered.
The paper defines three categories of neutron star planets while explaining the conditions they would be subjected to:
Neutron star planets can be first-, second- or third-generation. First generation ...

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