Thursday, 1 January 2015

Pluto and Orcus - Ideal Observation Outposts

The New Horizons spacecraft will finally reach Pluto this year. With its close encounter just a few months away there is obviously a lot of interest in the dwarf planet, and so there should be. But I'm just as interested in its almost equal, and opposite, 'relation', Orcus.

What is most interesting about the two dwarf planets are their orbits, shown below.

The orbits of Pluto (red), Orcus (blue) and Neptune (white)
The orbit of Orcus is similar to Pluto's but is oriented differently. The mutual resonance of Pluto and Orcus with Neptune ensures that both of the dwarf planets remain in opposite phases of their otherwise very similar orbits.

This seems too much of a coincidence, and unlikely to be entirely natural. I believe at least one of them was deliberately maneuvered into such an orbit.

With the two dwarf planets either on opposite sides of the Solar System, or above and below the elliptical plane, observation posts on both worlds would be able to monitor the whole Solar System. With advanced radio and optical telescopes all of the activities of humans would be visible. They are ideal locations to monitor our progress.

If such an observation post exists on Pluto it’s possible it will be discovered by the New Horizons probe as it passes by. But such a discovery is unlikely, even though NASA scientists will almost certainly spend considerable time looking for evidence of such things. The facility will almost certainly be underground, with its surface instruments camouflaged, or even retracted temporarily as the probe passes by. I'll be examining any unusual or unexpected features on the images returned with great interest.

View from the surface of Pluto, with its moon and the sun visible.
An observation outpost in such a location would be able to covertly monitor
our activity in the inner Solar System.

There is another way to detect the presences of the observation posts.

Pluto and Orcus are always in line of sight with each other, which would allow constant communication between the two. Observation posts on those two bodies are likely to exchange data with each other using highly focused means, such as microwaves or lasers, which would be undetectable except by a probe sent to a position directly between the two. If such a mission went ahead it may well reveal an extra terrestrial presence on the two dwarf planets and provide the first evidence that we are being observed. It’s a thrilling, yet alarming, prospect.

Of course, there could be an intermediary involved.  A third location, well above or below the elliptical plane of the Solar System, where a relay station receives the communications.  This would avoid the need to ever send messages through the centre of the Solar System (which would increase the risk of detection).

If we are to successfully expand our civilisation to the stars we need to know who’s watching us, and why, so that we can start watching them.