Sapient Life Indigenous to a Planet Orbiting a Red Dwarf

  • #1
Lren Zvsm
80
22
I am considering writing a story that features aliens indigenous to a planet orbiting a red dwarf star. Even so, because of its proximity to the red dwarf, the planet's surface receives much more radiation than Earth's surface does.

What is more, the planet has no moon to stabilize its axis. This means that the organisms on this planet have to migrate quickly from region to region. They accomplish partly through their ability to attach themselves to each other and coordinate their movements and configurations to move as a single large creature in cold climates, while detaching themselves from one another and moving as separate but highly social creatures in warmer climates. The fact that our creatures have to adapt to a world with an ever-changing climate means that, physically if not genetically, the red-sun-world's creatures are less physically diverse than life on Earth.

Organisms on this planet use the energy from this radiation to regenerate more cells than the radiation destroys. Thus adapted to the radiation, they NEED the radiation. Without it, nothing checks their cell-growth and they die horribly as if by some pan-somatic cancer.

At the same time, the dazzling physical diversity of life on Earth fascinates them and prompts them to observe our world. Unfortunately, they are dangerous to life on Earth, because the radioactive elements they wear to give them their needed radiation on Earth's surface give a lot of Earth organisms radiation sickness.

How "hard" (scientifically plausible) is this science fiction set-up?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
DaveC426913
Gold Member
21,178
4,609
What are you looking for? Critiques of the premise?
What is more, the planet has no moon to stabilize its axis.
Does a moon stabilize a planet's axis?

Of four rocky planets in our SS, three have no moons of any consequence. They don't seem to have a stability problem.

But granting that...
This means that the organisms on this planet have to migrate quickly from region to region.
... how does this follow? Is the planet literally wobbling so fast that their ecology changes?

They accomplish partly through their ability to attach themselves to each other and coordinate their movements and configurations to move as a single large creature in cold climates, while detaching themselves from one another and moving as separate but highly social creatures in warmer climates.
Now that's a cool idea.

The fact that our creatures have to adapt to a world with an ever-changing climate means that, physically if not genetically, the red-sun-world's creatures are less physically diverse than life on Earth.
I'm not sure that logically follows, but you could contrive it to be so.

Organisms on this planet use the energy from this radiation to regenerate more cells than the radiation destroys. Thus adapted to the radiation, they NEED the radiation. Without it, nothing checks their cell-growth and they die horribly as if by some pan-somatic cancer.
Interesting idea, but does it pan out? There's got to be some selection happening there, to ensure the right kinds of cells are regenerating to replace the kinds that are being lost.

Maybe if it were specific to the dermis - which is most exposed to the radiation.

How "hard" (scientifically plausible) is this science fiction set-up?
Its plausibility is directly proportional to how much work you put into it.

I would* develop a rough backstory (one that never need make it into the story) that describes the timeline of life from primitive organisms on up. Then you'll find it easier to explain why and how the colony life-form could have come about, and how radiation was incorporated into their metabolism.

* I've written my own "Alien Ecology" short story.

Here's a question: Have they managed to leave their planet yet? Are they at the starfaring stage? Are they at a planetary colonization stage?

Because, if they are not, then they do not yet have a need to adorn themselves with radioactive jewelry. That would only occur as a consequence of long-term immersion in a low-radiation environment. And, if they were aboard a ship, they wouldn't wear radioactive elements, they'd just make the ship environment appropriately radioactive. (Loosely analogous to oxygen for us. We didnt start carrying it on our backs until we went places that didn't have it.)

So, presumably, they must have spent a long time (years? generations?) in a place that has a lot of physical freedom but insufficient radioactivity. That's what would drive them to create devices that they can carry with them. (An outer planet in their system that's been colonized would serve such a purpose in the plot/back story.)
 
Last edited:
  • Informative
Likes Melbourne Guy and Lren Zvsm
  • #3
Rive
Science Advisor
2,361
1,773
What is more, the planet has no moon to stabilize its axis. This means that the organisms on this planet have to migrate quickly from region to region.
Wiki about that:
...planets in the habitable zone of a red dwarf would be so close to the parent star that they would likely be tidally locked. This would mean that one side would be in perpetual daylight and the other in eternal night.

I would say this 'red dwarf' setup kind of needs some special feature if you want to keep the migration and avoid the complete tidal locking. Maybe some eccentric orbit would do the trick instead of the axis problem (which I feel rather unlikely in an 'old' red dwarf system).
 
  • #4
Melbourne Guy
462
306
At the same time, the dazzling physical diversity of life on Earth fascinates them and prompts them to observe our world. Unfortunately, they are dangerous to life on Earth, because the radioactive elements they wear to give them their needed radiation on Earth's surface give a lot of Earth organisms radiation sickness.
This part is a bit confusing to me. Have they traveled to Earth? You're suggesting this with the radioactive sickness aspect, and I'm guessing they have because otherwise, how would they know about Earth's fecund life? Unless they have some spectacular telescopes, they'd not be noticing us from afar.

But, what motivates them to look in the first place? Surely, like us, they'd be tidally locked to their bias on what life requires? A water world orbiting so far from a yellow star wouldn't support life. Would it? How could it?
 
  • #5
Lren Zvsm
80
22
This part is a bit confusing to me. Have they traveled to Earth? You're suggesting this with the radioactive sickness aspect, and I'm guessing they have because otherwise, how would they know about Earth's fecund life? Unless they have some spectacular telescopes, they'd not be noticing us from afar.

But, what motivates them to look in the first place? Surely, like us, they'd be tidally locked to their bias on what life requires? A water world orbiting so far from a yellow star wouldn't support life. Would it? How could it?
 
  • #6
Lren Zvsm
80
22
My idea was that, since red dwarfs last billions of years longer than stars like the Sun, our red sun people would have far longer to develop technology and become spacefaring. Depending on how rare life is in the universe, they might be inclined to examine any planet that has an oxygen atmosphere. At least, I currently think so.
 
  • #7
Lren Zvsm
80
22
What are you looking for? Critiques of the premise?

Does a moon stabilize a planet's axis?

Of four rocky planets in our SS, three have no moons of any consequence. They don't seem to have a stability problem.

But granting that...

... how does this follow? Is the planet literally wobbling so fast that their ecology changes?


Now that's a cool idea.


I'm not sure that logically follows, but you could contrive it to be so.


Interesting idea, but does it pan out? There's got to be some selection happening there, to ensure the right kinds of cells are regenerating to replace the kinds that are being lost.

Maybe if it were specific to the dermis - which is most exposed to the radiation.


Its plausibility is directly proportional to how much work you put into it.

I would* develop a rough backstory (one that never need make it into the story) that describes the timeline of life from primitive organisms on up. Then you'll find it easier to explain why and how the colony life-form could have come about, and how radiation was incorporated into their metabolism.

* I've written my own "Alien Ecology" short story.

Here's a question: Have they managed to leave their planet yet? Are they at the starfaring stage? Are they at a planetary colonization stage?

Because, if they are not, then they do not yet have a need to adorn themselves with radioactive jewelry. That would only occur as a consequence of long-term immersion in a low-radiation environment. And, if they were aboard a ship, they wouldn't wear radioactive elements, they'd just make the ship environment appropriately radioactive. (Loosely analogous to oxygen for us. We didnt start carrying it on our backs until we went places that didn't have it.)

So, presumably, they must have spent a long time (years? generations?) in a place that has a lot of physical freedom but insufficient radioactivity. That's what would drive them to create devices that they can carry with them. (An outer planet in their system that's been colonized would serve such a purpose in the plot/back story.)
Among other things about this answer, I like your idea of an in-solar system planet that sets the stage for exploring a planet like Earth. Also, my idea was that, since red dwarfs last much longer than stars like the sun, the red sun people would have sufficient time to become spacefaring.
 
  • #8
Melbourne Guy
462
306
Depending on how rare life is in the universe, they might be inclined to examine any planet that has an oxygen atmosphere.
I'm still wondering what motivates them to think to do this? I guess an automated, space-based telescope could identify exoplanets (to them) with signs of life in their atmosphere, so Earth might show up. And if they see signs in one water world, they'll go looking for the same signs in other water worlds, so I'm talking myself into your point of view, @Lren Zvsm :biggrin:

But you've mostly asked about the evolutionary science here, do you have a story that these aliens will convey?
 
  • #9
Lren Zvsm
80
22
What I have in mind is a setting for multiple stories. I was thinking that, since red dwarfs are more common than sun-like stars, red dwarf aliens might be more typical than aliens from solar systems like our own. Assuming FTL (I'm waving my hands as fast as I can), there might be interstellar organizations among red-sun sapient species. But these aliens might want to come to Earth for reasons like these:

one: Because Earth is not tidally locked to its sun, it bears life over a greater part of its surface and has a bigger variety of environments. (Hence more biodiversity?) The aliens may want to study our planet in search of novel large molecules with the hope of applying this new knowledge to everything from engineering (e.g. tough new membranes and fibers, new building materials, the creation of bio-robots with no high radiation requirements) to organizational studies of social animals (e.g. ants, canids, humans), to new proteins that could be used in the interstellar intoxicant trade.

two: Scientific (and maybe economic interests) would prompt some red-sun aliens to want to preserve the Earth. Competing red-sun solar species might want to poison the Earth to undermine the interests of the red-sun people who want to preserve it. Alas, some of the preservation-minded aliens, in the face of such human activities such as war and environmental destruction, may want to domesticate us.

three: In spite of the rarity of Earth-like planets in this setting, there are other Earth-like planets--some of which bear sapient life far more technologically advanced than humans. These few civilizations struggle to protect themselves from a tide of red-sun civilizations--and may feel a kinship to Earth's weaker civilization such that they might fight for us as well, though SOME these people may consider that a waste of time, given our civilization's primitive state (about four hundred years from now?).
 
  • #10
Melbourne Guy
462
306
What I have in mind is a setting for multiple stories.
There is certainly scope for multiple stories, @Lren Zvsm, and given your scenario, you could write a series where the aliens (to us) develop their civilization and start their exploration efforts, with different interactions with aliens (to them) on different types of planets.

But best of luck with whatever you write!
 
  • #11
Dr Wu
161
35
A bit late in the day now to include this notion here, but on the basis of better late than never. . .

To reiterate: aside from the manifold challenges to life posed by tidal locking, any potentially life-bearing world orbiting a red dwarf typically has to endure the added menace of solar flares, CMEs etc. Regarding the latter issue, however, I did happen to chance upon a science article (source now unrecalled, alas) which suggested that these flares could occur away from a given red-dwarf's equatorial regions, occurring instead at higher (and lower) latitudes. If so, they could conceivably miss any orbiting planet altogether, with all the knock-on benefits this might offer for indigenous life appearing on its surface. Even if this conjecture has now been binned by those who know better, there's still no reason why it can't work in fiction. The cosmos, after all, is plenty roomy enough to allow for the odd exception without the suspension of disbelief going into a tailspin. Just a thought to throw into the mix. . .

Apologies in advance if this idea has already been mooted here.
 
  • #12
Lren Zvsm
80
22
A bit late in the day now to include this notion here, but on the basis of better late than never. . .

To reiterate: aside from the manifold challenges to life posed by tidal locking, any potentially life-bearing world orbiting a red dwarf typically has to endure the added menace of solar flares, CMEs etc. Regarding the latter issue, however, I did happen to chance upon a science article (source now unrecalled, alas) which suggested that these flares could occur away from a given red-dwarf's equatorial regions, occurring instead at higher (and lower) latitudes. If so, they could conceivably miss any orbiting planet altogether, with all the knock-on benefits this might offer for indigenous life appearing on its surface. Even if this conjecture has now been binned by those who know better, there's still no reason why it can't work in fiction. The cosmos, after all, is plenty roomy enough to allow for the odd exception without the suspension of disbelief going into a tailspin. Just a thought to throw into the mix. . .

Apologies in advance if this idea has already been mooted here.
Would tidal locking be less of an issue if the home-world were an oversized moon of a gas giant orbiting close to the red star? I'm told that "hot Jupiters" are possible. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Jupiter
 
  • #13
Dr Wu
161
35
It certainly seems feasible, at least at first sight. A gas giant's magnetosphere, with its ability to trap charged particles (think Jupiter) could be hazardous to a moon's surface life, however. Of course, there's no reason why an oversized moon, due to its internal dynamics, might not have a powerful magnetosphere of its own. Or else the magnetosphere of a given gas giant itself could be fairly weak. Nevertheless, the link below is well worth dipping into here, Lren.

NB. A larger K-type orange dwarf star might offer more possibilities in terms of setting than an M-type red dwarf. Many of these are also flare stars, but note the "get-out" mentioned in #11

https://news.asu.edu/20190722-discoveries-astronomers-calculate-magnetic-activity-hot-jupiters
 
  • #14
Strato Incendus
91
13
This is why I chose to use Teegarden’s Star in my story, which is an M-type dwarf, but a comparatively quiet one in terms of solar flares. There are a few confirmed other red dwarves in relative proximity to Earth which are similarly quiet.

To my knowledge, tidally locked planets can still have magnetospheres due to tidal heating. In my setting, life is only possible in the fertile belt between the day side and night side, and even there, sentient life only exists in the oceans in that fertile belt.
 

Suggested for: Sapient Life Indigenous to a Planet Orbiting a Red Dwarf

Replies
17
Views
343
Replies
17
Views
941
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
2K
Replies
13
Views
408
  • Last Post
2
Replies
49
Views
1K
Replies
9
Views
699
  • Last Post
Replies
28
Views
4K
Replies
49
Views
5K
Top