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Adhara

B27A668-8

by Pete Grey

Adhara is one of the strangest worlds ever discovered within charted space, and it constitutes a class of its own. It is the smallest water world on record, measuring a mere 3500 kms in diameter, and it seems to be too small to support such a massive hydrosphere.

Adhara is mysterious for one more reason: the world has an incredible amount of geothermal heat. Planetary surveys indicate that at one time, Adhara had a complex composition of cometary debris, bare rock and large amounts of frozen water, a composition more commensurate with the systems Kuiper Belt than deeper insystem. Theorists think that the world was somehow dislodged from the Belt by a passing star or extrasolar gas giant early in the systems formation, and was hurled into the inner system, eventually coming to orbit within the systems habital zone.

But theorists are stumped about the worlds transformation after that. It is clear that most of the water melted, but mostly because of the internal geothermal heat rather than solar warming. The process that drives this massive heating is still unknown, though current consensus is that it is some kind of crude solid state fusion process. The heat is so great that parts of the world ocean practically boil due to volcanic vents within the sea floor. Some of this heat may be due to the lack of tectonic plates.

Adhara's oceans average about 35 to 45 degress celsius, and are often too hot for immersion with bare skin. Water temperatures vary throughout the oceanic thermocline, either hotter at the surface and colder near the bottom, or vice versa. This creates huge thermal bores and convection currents within deep oceanic troughs, and an undersea "jet stream" that rings the equatorial region, that can be harnessed for power generation. In some regions fumaroles kilometers in height create massive undersea geysers that often break the ocean surface, creating a spray of hot, mineral rich water that can be lethal to the unwary. The locals call their homeworld the "cosmic teakettle."

Adhara's high water temperature, heavy hydrogen sulfide taint, and exotic life prevented settlement until 810. A coalition of companies and wealthy individuals was formed on nearby Armada to exploit the worlds untapped resources, and the first colonists were sent in with specially insulated protable "atolls" to live on. These colonists are primarily miners and bio- prospecters, as most of the local life is inedible to humans and aquafarming is difficult in the high water temperatures. The locals are a hardy down-to-earth group, who have infinite reserves of patience and a careful work-a-day pace to their lives. They also have a lively contempt of their bosses on Armada, though no real desire for independence.

The local lifeforms are mostly exotic invertebrates that resemble Terran tubeworms and large nematodes. The temperature variations of Adhara's oceans encourage diversity, and the development of microclimes, many of which remain unexplored. A number of commerciallly lucrative discoveries have been made among the local life, most of it relating to the materials industry. It is estimated that less than half of the planets biomass has been cataloged and studied, and that many deep oceanic lifeforms have not been studied due to their proximity to volcanic vents or rifts.


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