Moon with a View:
Or, What Did Arthur Know … and When Did He Know it?
By Richard C. Hoagland
© 2005 The Enterprise Mission
"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them … into the impossible."
-- Clarke’s Second Law
Since “Moon with a View” was originally posted, reaction has been varied – to say the least!
Some, on reading, have become intrigued. Others are repelled. And some, typified by this truly wondrous comment on “Coast to Coast AM” a few nights ago – “This time Hoagland has really walked off the cliff!” – are simply, as the phrase goes, “out to lunch.”
Fundamental to many criticisms of this theory is the scale of the construction we’re proposing. These critics see the entire idea of an “artificial moon” – and one almost a thousand miles across -- as totally preposterous, mainly because of the size of such an undertaking. What they forget is that some of these (artificial world) ideas are actually quite old … and increasingly achievable – even (as you will see) within the constraints of current technology and physics!
Their most famous incarnation is, in major part, due to Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Studies’ professor, Dr. Freeman Dyson. Almost half a century ago, Dyson published a remarkable idea in the prestigious mainstream journal, Science [Dyson, F. J. "Search for Artificial Sources of Infrared Radiation," Science, 131, 1667 (1959)] – which described something termed a “Dyson Sphere.” Dyson ended his Science paper with the following conclusion:
“I think I have shown that there are good scientific reasons for taking seriously the possibility that life and intelligence can succeed in molding this universe of ours to their own purposes [emphasis added] ….”
In Dyson’s 1950’s calculations, he envisioned huge, artificial planets -- built from the “disassembly” of a star’s natural planetary system, and its subsequent reassembly into a vast number of smaller, precisely engineered artificial worlds. The resulting “Dyson Sphere,” in Dyson’s speculations, seemed the largest artificial structures that an advanced civilization could probably ever technologically create. And as such, he believed, they might even be observable light years away, with our “primitive” technology from Earth ….
In this classic Science paper, Dyson was suggesting that such extraordinary objects – by literally englobing an entire solar system in a swarm of artificial “worlds,” thereby trapping almost all the parent sun’s emitted light and converting it to heat -- would glow brilliantly in the infrared region of the spectrum ... thus giving themselves away even in Earth’s 20th/21st Century telescopes, as “artificially modified star systems” (below).
Dyson’s inspiration for this extraordinary idea (as was Arthur C. Clarke’s for many of his …) ultimately derived from famed science fiction writer, Olaf Stapledon – in particular, his 1937 classic, “Star Maker”:
… As the eons advanced, hundreds of thousands of worlds were constructed, all of this type, but gradually increasing in size and complexity. Many a star without natural planets came to be surrounded by concentric rings of artificial worlds. In some cases the inner rings contained scores, the outer rings thousands of globes adapted to life at some particular distance from the Sun ….
Since Dyson’s pioneering publication of his “outrageous” speculation some 50 years ago, other workers have followed up with a variety of additional scenarios. All agree that, given enough time and current technological advancement, even our own terrestrial civilization could construct the beginnings of a “baby” Dyson sphere (see schematic - below), perhaps in the next hundred or so years. The key is in those terms: “time” … and “technological development.”
What we’re discussing in this series – Iapetus as a potential “artificial moon” – is NOT a “Dyson Sphere” by any stretch of the imagination, but is in fact orders of magnitude easier to engineeringly achieve. I know it will surprise many of our critics that some of the necessary materials -- and even construction technologies for such an astonishing assembly -- are already here … and at least one U.S. consortium has been formed specifically to create a similar-scale project -- to be completed in the next 13 years … by 2018!--
“An elevator into space.”
Here’s the basic concept:
To build “an elevator to the stars,” you start building from a location on the Earth’s equator ... rising vertically until you reach “geosynchronous orbit” -- some 22,300 miles out. Then, you send payloads up and down this structure via “climber cars” -- which would be electrically powered and, on their ascent, being also accelerated by the increasing centrifugal forces of rotation of the planet with increasing height, would ultimately achieve tangential velocities above 22,300 miles capable of launching payloads directly into orbit (below) ….
Or, as science fiction writer Robert Heinlein once remarked, “Once you’re in Earth orbit … you're half way to anywhere!”
Compared to current, highly primitive methods of getting off this planet – expendable rockets, the Space Shuttle, etc., which can cost up to $10,000 per pound of payload launched! – Arthur Clarke once calculated that one could send a fully grown man to geosynchronous orbit (and his “22 pounds of carry-on luggage …”) via such an elevator, for about “a dollars’ worth of electricity …” -- a saving of ten thousand fold over current rocket-based propulsion systems (not counting the ~ $10 billion-dollar development costs …)!
The original incarnation of this idea for a “tower into space” (below) can be traced back to the great Russian space pioneer, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, in 1895:
… on the tower, as one climbed higher and higher up it, gravity would decrease gradually; and if it were constructed on the Earth's equator and, therefore, rapidly rotated together with the earth, the gravitation would disappear not only because of the distance from the centre of the planet, but also from the centrifugal force that is increasing proportionately to that distance. The gravitational force drops. . . but the centrifugal force operating in the reverse direction increases. On the earth the gravity is finally eliminated at the top of the tower, at an elevation of 5.5 radii of the earth [22,300 miles] ….
Because of the stupendous mass of such a “tower,” the strength of existing materials -- even alloyed steels – would soon crush under their own weight, making it impossible to envision actually building such a structure above a height of about 4 miles (but even so, that’s a helluva skyscraper ..!).
Even if composed of 100% diamond (if one could afford it …), calculation proves that the strongest naturally known material is far too weak to support itself above about 10 miles ….
Then, in 1960, another Russian – an engineer in Leningrad, Yuri N. Artsutanov -- published in Pravda a radical “innovation on the innovation” (below).
Artsutanov suggested constructing Tsiolkovsky’s space tower not as a “tower” at all … but as a literal “skyhook”: starting it in space -- at a “geosynchronous” satellite distance of 22,300 miles out (the distance whereby a satellite circles the world in exactly the time it takes the Earth to rotate once on its own axis underneath), and then lowering the supporting structure (this time, a cable …) the 22,300 miles down to Earth … to an anchor point located on the equator, directly underneath the orbiting satellite. Another cable, extended in the opposite direction (beyond geosynchronous orbit) would support the necessary “counterweight mass” via centrifugal force … required to hold up the lower cable’s mass against the Earth’s gravitational attraction.
And, Artsutanov calculated, if the cables were tapered – starting out quite thick at the geosynchronous height (where the tension forces would be the greatest), narrowing in both directions as they approached the Earth and extended in the opposite direction -- suddenly even ordinary materials (if you could lift enough tonnage into space via other means, like rockets! ...) became strong enough for use … even in this extraordinary context!
Or, to quote from Arthur Clarke’s own views on this revolutionary concept, presented to the Thirtieth International Astronautical Congress back in 1979:
… with a stepped, or tapered, cable it would be theoretically possible to construct the space elevator from any material, however weak. You could build it [out] of chewing gum [!], though the total mass required would probably be larger than that of the entire universe. For the scheme to be practical we need materials with a breaking length a very substantial fraction of escape length. Even Kevlar 29's 200 km is a mere 25th of the 5000 km goal; to use that would be like fuelling the Apollo mission with damp gun powder, and would require the same sort of astronomical ratio [emphasis added] ….
This startlingly simple series of Artsutanov innovations – building the “elevator” in space, making it a tapered cable … then, lowering it to the ground from orbit -- suddenly made the whole, “impossible” Tsiolkovsky’ idea … make sense.
Naturally, space engineers really wanted something a bit stronger than “Arthur’s chewing gum” to work with. And, in the quarter century since his address, they’ve finally found it—
Carbon nanotubes ….
In one of the Universe’s greatest “irony of ironies” -- considering what we now believe the three-dimensional shape of Iapetus to be (below) – the material that will allow the construction of the world’s first practical Space Elevator … and a host of other “impossible” things … turns out to be based on a simple tetrahedral molecule … composed of carbon: the “carbon nanotube.”
Carbon nanotubes are extremely tiny (the prefix “nano” comes from their dimensions, about a billionth of a meter -- one nanometer -- wide), rolled-up, three dimensional carbon tubes, made of a hexagonal graphite lattice -- first cousin to two other forms (“allotropes”) of carbon (below): the well-known diamond … and something relatively new, called a “Buckminsterfullerene.”
The latter -- also known as “buckyballs” – are C60 molecules discovered serendipitously by a team at Rice University, led by Dr. Richard Smalley (Nature 318, 162) in 1985 (below). Named after R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome (discussed in “Moon with a View” - Part 2), the “fullerene’s” 60 carbon atoms (!) are arranged spherically, as 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons (below), in the most symmetrical molecular form known.
Then, six years after fullerenes were first synthesized in Smalley’s Texas laboratory, the “nanotube” version of this fascinating molecule was independently discovered -- by Sumio Iijima, in Japan in 1991.
Extensive laboratory work around the world since these serendipitous discoveries, exploring the physical parameters of these newest forms of carbon, has confirmed truly extraordinary properties. According to a 1999 report from the University of Michigan—
… nanotubes, though very much still in the infant research phase, show many promising, world changing applications. Nanotubes have shown to be very strong materials. The Young’s modulus, a representation of a material’s strength, has been computed to be on the order of 1.2 Terra Pascals, 6.25 times that of steel . Based on this, Professor Richard Smalley, a leader in the nanotube field and Nobel laureate for his buckyball research, has stated that nanotubes are at least 1000 times stronger than steel rods of the same size. [below]. Coupled with the fact that nanotubes are one-sixth the weight of steel, some fantastic structural, mechanical, and materials applications are currently being researched. These ideas include composite structures, super strong cables, small nanogears or nanomachinary, and a possible storage medium for chemicals [emphasis added] ….
So, after “only” a century of looking, the engineers had indeed found a material “somewhat better than chewing gum” … that would finally make a real “elevator to the stars” (below) ….
What’s truly extraordinary about all this is that a host of teams, worldwide – including, as noted earlier, one U.S. association of high tech companies and architectural firms -- are now in a feverish competition to actually be the first to build this astonishing contraption. The pacing item at this point seeming only to be convincing someone to invest a “measly” $10 billion dollars to get in on the (sorry…) literal “ground floor.”
(Later, here on Enterprise, we’ll consider separately these audacious, rapidly accelerating Space Elevator plans – which, if successful, could revolutionize human access to the solar system – and thus future history itself. And, we’ll share a remarkable “hyperdimensional surprise” we have discovered … which will both assist – and challenge -- these Space Elevator engineers when they begin actual construction ….)
* * *
So … what does all this have to do with Iapetus?
Obviously, if current materials science has developed a technology capable of constructing a single space structure, raised against Earth’s gravity … and over 60,000 miles in length (a 22,300 mile-high cable, stretching from Earth to geosynchronous orbit, plus the additional length for the required counterweight …), that same technology could someday easily create other “large space structures.” It’s only a matter of developing the appropriate techniques for “spinning” the high-strength nanocables or “nanorebar,” out of nanotubes and buckyballs -- coupled with development of the necessary computer-controlled, robotic assembly techniques for remote manufacturing/construction in high orbit ... or … in orbit around a distant source of the critical raw material … carbon.
Which, is far more available in the outer solar system than close to home ….
And, as stated, one U.S. consortium – the Liftport Group -- even has a “countdown clock” now posted on their website … literally counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds, until the first terrestrial Space Elevator is successfully created … and opened for delivery of customers and cargo to high orbit!
If a handful of individuals on this planet -- at the very beginning of the 21st Century -- can realistically envision building such a revolutionary system by 2018, what could an ancient space-faring civilization such as we’ve proposed for Mars … countless millennia ahead of us -- scientifically and technologically -- have been able to achieve?
In other words: the biggest impediment to taking our Iapetus proposal seriously – the scale of a thousand-mile-diameter “moon” – pales into insignificance (with even slightly more space expertise), compared to current plans aimed at creating a literal, “60,000 mile-high skyhook to geosynchronous orbit” … and in less than 20 years!!
* * *
In addition to being an elegant solution to the technology of how Iapetus was formed, the choice of carbon nanotubes and buckyballs for its construction would immediately address (and answer!) a variety of classic problems that have baffled the astronomical community regarding Iapetus’ appearance for the last three hundred years – starting with the unique “light/dark dichotomy” of those opposing hemispheres (below).
In addition, the use of such ultra-high-strength carbon would forthrightly address the startling and baffling new questions raised by Cassini’s recent fly-by, beginning with–
The “moon’s” amazing geometric form.
If Iapetus is a “tetrahedral message” – a message redundantly communicated by the specific placement of key features on its surface (the “ring basins,” etc.), compounded by its very strange orbit around Saturn, at ~ 60 radii away and 15-degree inclination to the rest of the Saturnian moons (which, as George Haas reminded me, when divided into 60, is another numerical code for the four vertices of a tetrahedron!) -- then what better means to underscore that message, once again ... than to create the “moon” in the very shape of the carbon molecule used in its construction—
In actuality, one of the 13 Archimedian Solids: a “truncated icosahedron (below)!”
In other words -- a 900-mile-wide, C60 “fullerene?!”
Looked at in a larger context, creating a moon-sized “truncated icosahedron” would simply be the ultimate means of saying “five-sided/six-sided symmetry is crucially important in the Universe ….”
As Erol Torun discovered and decoded at Cydonia in 1988, the major artificial structure on that landscape – the so-called “D&M Pyramid” (below) – also neatly communicates this identical mathematical “message”: the key relationship between five-sided and six-sided geometry in the “real” world. The loose “translation” of such a “message” (in Cydonia’s tetrahedral/hyperdimensional context):
“The ‘relatedness’ of the physics of six-sided symmetry in the natural world (crystals, energy flow, etc.) to the biology of five-sided forms, is crucial to understanding life itself ….”
And life, as we currently see it, is solely based on carbon ... the quintessential “tetrahedral” molecular form.
In other words, the real message is … “Life (five-sided symmetry) cannot exist … without a hyperdimensional (six-symmetry) connection ….”
The combination of this same “message” in Iapetus – in one, much larger solar system object -- could be another shorthand way of saying: “Here, in this object, is embodied both – the biology of a living, artificial world … created and maintained via tetrahedral (hyperdimensional) physics. Come find out what else it means …”
This commonality, of course, is yet another indicator that the source of this “repeating solar system message,” somehow, is connected with what we’ve already found and decoded … back on “Mars.”
But, besides being uniquely supportive of the other “tetrahedral clues” embodied in Iapetus -- the entire “moon,” as a gigantic fullerene(!) – this recursive statement could also be seen as redundant communication of the unique materials making up this “moon.” In other words, a back-up message: to underscore to any materials scientist, even viewing from a distance (below) -- “This place is obviously artificial!”
If whoever left this increasingly remarkable object “parked” in orbit around Saturn wanted such a set of signatures to be recognizable -- even after the erosion of literally millions of years -- they would have needed precisely this degree of “redundancy and convergent clues,” potentially linked to other “messages” left in other places in the solar system … to make the “message” real.
Culminating with this astonishing result—
Take the specific geometry that now seems to shape Iapetus – a truncated icosahedron, a duplicate of the “C60 fullerene.” Multiply it by the number of radii Iapetus is orbiting away from Saturn (60 …). And discover—
360 -- the exact number of degrees in a full circle/orbit of this extraordinary “moon!”
The odds against these precise, interrelated “tetrahedral” numbers constantly recurring in one “moon” -- each neatly “encoded” in the very size, shape, distance and orbital inclination of Iapetus by “sheer coincidence” -- are literally now overwhelming!!
The clincher is the recursive relationship between Iapetus’ measurable, remarkable macro-fullerene appearance ... and the extraordinary physical properties of the microscopic carbon nanotubes that, in our model, someone had to use to build it!
According to Nobel Laureate Dr. Richard Smalley, writing for the American Scientist online:
… nanotubes are [nothing more than] giant linear fullerenes. A fullerene, by definition, is a closed, convex cage molecule containing only hexagonal and pentagonal faces. (This definition intentionally leaves out possible heptagons, which are responsible for the concave parts and are treated as defects.) Like any simple polyhedron, a fullerene cage or a nanotube satisfies Euler's theorem (earlier proved by Descartes) relating the number of vertices (here, carbon atoms), edges (covalent bonds), and faces: v - e + f = 2. If the number of pentagons is p, and the other (f - p) faces are all hexagonal, then the doubled number of edges (each edge belongs to two faces) is 5p + 6(f - p), which also equals the tripled number of vertices (each trivalent carbon is shared by three adjacent faces).
A simple accounting then yields p = 12, and therefore a nice, defectless nanotube must have exactly 12 pentagons, the same dozen as in the buckyball! The strict rules of topology impose this family trait on all fullerenes. An even more obvious trait the nanotubes inherit from another ancestor, graphite, is a hexagonal pattern on their walls. Figure 4 illustrates this by showing two possible ways of constructing a nanotube from a precursor form of carbon [emphasis added] ….
With this identity established, it is a reasonable speculation/hypothesis that the prime reason why the current surface of Iapetus is repeatedly collapsing, and on a variety of scales in repeating hexagonal and pentagonal patterns (below), is specifically because of this fractal, meteor battered, underlying hexagona/pentagonal carbon nanotube construction!
So, how does the presence of this “buckytube” material (the other name by which carbon nanotubes are known …) address the major three-hundred-year-old mystery of Iapetus’ “light/dark dichotomy?”
Pure carbon is dark … very dark. In fact, in certain forms, it’s the darkest substance known.
For decades, via telescopic “spectrophotometry” (and now via Cassini’s own VIMS), the dark substance on the front of Iapetus has been attributed to “some form of hydrocarbon.” Which is just another way of saying “carbon … with something else mixed in.”
In their 1985 experiment, which accidentally discovered fullerenes, Smalley and company were using a high-power laser, fired at a rotating disc of pure graphite (below), in an effort to blast off “long-chain hydrocarbons ….” Instead, they discovered a new, pure allotrope of carbon – the buckyball.
The operative agency was “heat.”
The heat from the focused laser beam broke the graphite bonds (above), and allowed the most stable form of carbon – C60 fullerenes – to form. The problem: the process was extremely inefficient; the amount of C60 produced in the 1985 experiments was very small. Smalley calculated that, even if the set-up was run ten years non-stop, it wouldn’t produce enough fullerenes to coat the bottom of a test tube (a few milligrams, at most)!
However, other research groups soon discovered processes for making fullerenes that were far more efficient:
… the next scientific breakthrough came in 1990 when a German/American group and the Sussex group independently showed that C60 could be made in gram quantities using a carbon arc. The technique is essentially very simple; if a voltage is applied to two carbon rods, (just touching), an arc will develop between them. If the arc is maintained in helium or argon (instead of in air) clouds of black smoky carbon soot are produced. It turns out that at the correct arc temperature and gas pressure up to 10 % of the black soot is C60. Also present in the soots are 1% C70, and smaller quantities of larger fullerenes [emphasis added] ….
Note the redundant use of the term “soot.” That’s what carbon forms in these experiments: a pitch black amorphous carbon residue ... of which only about 10% are fullerenes. Now, what is the distinguishing hallmark of the front of Iapetus?: its carbon-black/deep reddish surface (about 3-4% reflectivity) -- consistent with a LOT of carbon fullerenes … mixed in (coated?) with “something reddish” … and a lot of “soot.”
Assuming fullerenes and nanotubes are, indeed, the main structural component of Iapetus – because of their extraordinary tensile strength, ease of mass production, natural abundance of carbon in the outer solar system, etc. -- what would this model predict regarding the specific origin of the infamous “light/dark dichotomy” (above)?
The standard planetary composition for Iapetus, based on both spectral observations of the light side, and the insitu density measurements carried out by the Voyager/Cassini fly-bys, is that this Saturnian satellite is just another icy moon. Telescopic surface spectral scans have repeatedly revealed the classic absorption pattern of frozen water, and the planned Cassini spacecraft density measurements, carried out in December, 2004 – revealing <1.1 g/cc – amply confirmed this previously measured density from Voyager.
But … is this really what Iapetus is made of?
If this object is, indeed, an artificially constructed “world” -- whose interior frame, if not actual surface “skin,” is fractally composed of carbon nanotubes, and whose interior is mostly hollow “rooms” ... once filled with air, machinery, and other essentials for a totally enclosed biosphere -- then the actual bulk structural material could have a much higher specific gravity (density) than water ice, and yet Iapetus’ surface appearances could still give the misleading impression of “just another icy moon” ….
Over time, as repeated major impacts punctured through its “skin,” interior volatiles from the essentially hollow, pressurized interior – particularly water vapor – would have been explosively released to space. These water molecules would have immediately condensed on the coldest surfaces available ... which, at Saturn’s distance from the Sun and frigid temperatures, would have been the outside of this apparent “moon!” This would have created, with each impact, local venting and re-condensation of spectrally pure ice – until most of the interior water vapor in the formerly contained atmosphere was “cold trapped” all across the surface of Iapetus!
Eventually, the last sealed rooms in the interior would have been inevitably breached … releasing their last remaining air. From that point on, as this derelict “moon” continued orbiting Saturn – one hemisphere synchronously facing its orbital direction, the other “protected” to the rear -- the constant “sandblasting effect” of a million million meteor impacts … over literally millions of years … would have preferentially vaporized the vented coating of thin ice from the forward-facing hemisphere--
Selectively re-exposing the original black, carbon nanotube surface hiding underneath – through a geometrically-determined elliptical erosion pattern (via longitudinal physical libration) -- stretching across that leading hemisphere … and partially beyond (see also, time lapse sequence -- below)!
This -- in the artificial model -- is the real explanation for the three-hundred-year-old mystery of the “dark side of Iapetus!”
The underlying carbon-rich material, via secondary trajectories (in the 1/40th Earth gravity of Iapetus’ surface) would also have “dirtied” the remaining ice, even on the protected opposite hemisphere -- via ballistically transported carbonized debris from impacts on the front. And, in addition to revealing the original blackened surface there, this incessant micrometorite erosion would have inevitably worn away some of the elevated vertices and edges of the original “moon” … ultimately producing the muted “truncated isocahedron” visible today ….
In this model, the “dark ellipse” -- contrary to mainstream speculations -- is not a deposit of “dark stuff from Phoebe” lying on a bright, white, icy surface … but rather, is the geometrically-determined result of a long-term erosion (and contamination) of a previous ice deposit vented from the interior biosphere … preferentially eroded via orbital dynamics ….
These ideas, of course (the artificial aspect notwithstanding), are the exact antithesis of the current leading mainstream models for Iapetus. According to Bruce Moomaw, a well-known science writer covering Cassini:
… the "exogenous" (outside-source) theory is favored, because nobody can come up with a good explanation for why Iapetus' interior would vomit up such dark material when none of Saturn's other moons shows a trace of it [emphasis added] ….
And, unless they seriously investigate this artificial model … they never will!
Our idea, of course, also instantly explains why even at the kilometer-scale resolution of the December, ‘04 fly-by, Cassini saw NO bright impact craters (or bright rayed craters) anywhere across the dark ellipse -- “punching through” the overlying dark material (the mainstream model …) to reveal the bright, primordial ice lying down below.
That “icy landscape” doesn’t exist!!
Iapetus’ real surface (underneath even the brilliant, “ice-covered, trailing hemisphere,” and still surviving “polar caps”) is composed of successive shells of meteor-battered, black carbon nanotubes and fullerenes … which is precisely what Iapetus’ shape has also been trying hard to tell us!
Serious support for this idea can be seen in other Cassini images (below), which have been returned by distant fly-bys since mid-2004; if one looks carefully at this several month-long sequence, with the sun coming from the right, it is clear that between the bright white trailing hemisphere (image, right) and the “dark ellipse” (image, left), there is a serious topographic “step” – augmented in places by major impact scars -- fascinatingly consistent with several miles of the front” of Iapetus having been literally blown off and eroded away … either by the intense “blastwave” of debris from the exploded Planet V sweeping across Saturn’s distant orbit … or … by millions of years’ exposure to an unceasing meteoric “rain” ….
This “asymmetric erosion model” -- revealing this black carbon surface underneath Iapetus’ thin covering of ice -- is also totally consistent with the new, overexposed Cassini images ... which close-in (below) reveal a remarkably geometric terminator on some regions of the more protected trailing hemisphere of this amazing “moon” ….
In other words -- a 900-mile-wide, C60 “fullerene?!”
Amazing as it may sound, there is actual human precedent for this idea: embodying the geometry of the material used in constructing a particular monument … in the monument’s final macro-geometric form! The most striking example of this practice (before Iapetus, that is …) was brought to my attention several years ago, by my good friend and colleague, Stan Tenen.
Stan pointed out that the Great Pyramid, located on the Egypt’s Giza Plateau, is composed primarily (except for a bit of granite “here and there” inside …) of another carbon-compound known as “calcium carbonate” (CaCO3). Most folks know it better as “limestone.” It’s also known as “calcite” -- the rock type that forms huge layers of the 70-million-year-old strata making up the Plateau, as well as much of the rest of Egypt -- extending east, all the way to Indonesia ….
Huge blocks of calcium carbonate were quarried (not far from the Plateau …), and carefully shaped into the “six million tons of limestone blocks …” that were then used to create a structure over 750 feet on a side and almost 500 feet high: the legendary Great Pyramid itself.
Stan, both to me and on the radio, noted that if you just look at the exterior geometry of the Great Pyramid (below), shaped visually by the three angles it presents from any one side -- the 76-degree angle at the apex, and the two 52-degree angles where it touches the ground at the base -- you will actually be looking at a giant replica of the same internal angles of the calcium carbonate crystal of which it is composed!!
In other words: the Great Pyramid – exactly like Iapetus in our scenario – is a demonstrable giant replica of the precise material that someone used to build it!
Looked at in a larger context, creating a moon-sized “truncated icosahedron” would simply be the ultimate means of saying “five-sided/six-sided symmetry is crucially important in the Universe ....”
* * *
Finally, a major, serendipitous aspect of this model is a completely integral explanation for Iapetus’ latest, fascinating mystery -- “the Wall.”
According to the 2005 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference ISS Team paper, covering the last six months of Cassini’ observations of Iapetus:
… these data led to the discovery of the enigmatic "bellyband" of Iapetus, a ridge or chain of mountains that follows Iapetus' equator precisely over at least 1300 km . The highest measured peak rises ~20 km over the surroundings, or ~28 km over a reference radius of 718 km . However, as in Voyager data , a good reference ellipsoid cannot be found because of the unusual irregular shape of Iapetus ….
The ridge coincides with the faint equatorial streak observed in the October  and even July data. The slope of the southern flank achieves a gradient of up to 20°, the northern flank ~30°. The ridge itself appears to be located on a broader bulge, extending a few hundred km in southern and northern directions [emphasis added] ….”
Based on these early measurements by the Cassini Team and certain structural considerations of the artificial model, it seems highly likely now that “the Wall” (below) is NOT simply a feature sitting on Iapetus’ surface – as many have speculated ... extending more than 12 miles above the surrounding plains -- but rather—
The remains of a deep, massive “equatorial reinforcing ring” -- which was used to literally join the two hemispheres of this “artificial moon” together!
The fact that we see it now as a sharply elevated “wall,” in this scenario, is only due to its significantly more massive, more durable construction -- compared to the surrounding “landscape.” Only for this reason, in my estimation, has this unique solar system feature been able to resist, even partially, the continual sandblasting and larger impacts (above) -- which have demonstrably destroyed other parts of it in places, as well as erode the surrounding “landscape” on both sides … down to a depth of several miles!
Echoing the ISS Team description--
… the ridge itself appears to be located on a broader bulge, extending a few hundred km in southern and northern directions [emphasis added]--”
This would indicate that Iapetus’ original surface, paralleling “the Wall,” was also reinforced (more layers?) … leaving a broad, erosion-resistant “bulge” extending north and south of the reinforcing “Wall” itself (below) ….
Also, notice – as the surviving segments of “the Wall” arc around Iapetus’ equatorial circumference (above) -- it appears to be a single band in some places … and as much as three, parallel bands in others.
This, I believe, is not only additional, blatant evidence of artificiality (nature does not like “straight lines” ... especially, multiple straight lines that run parallel for several hundred miles!), but perhaps a major clue as to an additional reason (beyond structural reinforcement) for “the Wall’s” precise construction … on (and beneath) the Iapetus’ equator.
We’ll explore this possible technological use – in addition to structural reinforcement -- later on ….
But before we leave the subject, we should make at least one firm scientific prediction regarding this unique feature for the next Cassini fly-by ... whenever that occurs.
If “the Wall’ is the leading hemisphere’s meteor-eroded remains of a former equatorial construction… then, we should NOT expect to see much visible evidence for its presence in the trailing hemisphere -- except, perhaps, where large impact craters have partially excavated portions of the buried sections!
In this “erosion model,” the Wall – and the dark ellipse so intimately associated with it (see Steve Albers’ Iapetus Mercator Map - below) – are the unique products of the micrometeorite erosion of the original surface across the leading surface of this “moon.” Where that erosion has not occurred to this degree (in the trailing hemisphere), only subtle surface evidence of such an “equatorial ring” – in actuality, completely circling Iapetus -- should now be visible beneath the original ice-coated geometric surface ….
Additional, high-resolution Cassini imagery of the rest of Iapetus should be able to definitely put this prediction to the test.
Which brings us back to the unique reddish color and extremely low albedo of the heavily eroded, “dark ellipse” itself.
In our scenario, the exposed, highly battered layers of Iapetus, centered north and south precisely on “the Wall” (above), should be dead black – a mixture of the original reinforcing carbon architecture, and the smashed debris of trillions of dissociated nanotubes and fullerenes, turned to ordinary “soot” by countless megayears of high-temperature impacts on the leading hemisphere. However, historical spectral observations of the dark ellipse (and now, Cassini’s color imaging) are significantly more intriguing; according to many leading, decades-old papers—
… spectrophotometry of the Saturn satellite Iapetus in the 0.3-1.0 micron wavelength range shows the dark hemisphere to be very red, similar to a few asteroids and the earth's moon, but with no spectral features implying olivine or pyroxene [ordinary “rocks” - emphasis added] ….
And, as noted earlier, at least one group of authors -- in a 2001 paper published while Cassini was in the early stages of its seven-year odyssey to Saturn -- believed they had finally solved the three-hundred-year-old mystery of Iapetus’ dark ellipse using large telescopes from Earth, as:
… an intimate mixture of water ice, amorphous carbon, and a nitrogen-rich organic compound … Observations in this spectral region have not revealed this mix of material on any other object observed thus far [emphasis added] ….
The first part of their observational fit is, of course, precisely consistent with our nanotube/fullerene model! The problem comes with the rest of their attempted match: the mystery of the additional “nitrogen-rich … organic compound.”
In a recent interview, investigative journalist Linda Moulton Howe managed to elicit some very telling comments about the composition of the dark ellipse from Bonnie Buratti, Principal Scientist, Division of Earth and Space Sciences, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California. Buratti is a member of the Cassini VIMS Team, and has presented to colleagues in the last few months preliminary Iapetus composition estimates from the recent spacecraft fly-bys. Here are a couple of intriguing comments she made, in response to Linda’s questions regarding the current Cassini observations of Iapetus:
… it looks like the bright side [of Iapetus] is primarily water ice – [but] not fresh water ice, because the reflectivity (although it is bright, it reflects about 60% of the radiation) … [is] kind of like dirty snow. So, we think there is something else there, other than pure water ice ... there is some organic material [there], some carbonate material that's rich in carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Kind of crud; I think you could call it crud.
The dark side, though, has very little water ice. It's primarily minerals and various organic material(s)…. We seem to [also] see a mineral that is iron- bearing in the infrared [emphasis added] ....
Now, readers with good memories will remember that in Part 3 we discussed ferro-electric coatings (“paint”) -- like “carbonyl iron ferrite” -- applied to the F-117 to make it “stealthy.” And, in the February, 2005 issue of Scientific American, in an article called “Nanotubes and the Clean Room,” by Gary Stix, the following comment, regarding an unwanted side effect of current nanutube manufacturing techniques, was casually made—
… nanotubes, purchased from bulk suppliers, are a form of high-tech soot that contains a residue that averages 5 percent iron, a contaminant whose very mention can produce involuntary tremors in managers of multi-million-dollar clean rooms. The Nantero team devoted much of its early development [of the new nanotube chip] to devising a complex filtration process to reduce the amount of iron to the parts-per-billion-level [emphasis added] ….
Given that the natural moons of Saturn formed in a region of the solar system essentially devoid of iron -- the ultra-frigid realm of the outer solar system, where the condensation of ices from the Saturn nebula far more readily occurred – the presence of copious amounts of free iron on the surface of Iapetus (but missing on the other Saturnian satellites) presents another serious impediment to Iapetus’ formation and evolution as “just another moon” ....
1) what Burris and her colleagues are seeing in the VIMS data of Iapetus is an iron contaminant of the nanotube manufacturing process used in Iapetus’ original construction; or 2) the anomalous iron is part of a ferro-electric coating, deliberately applied to Iapetus (along with its intrinsic geometric shape – below) -- to make it … stealthy!
The implications of a deliberately stealthy Iapetus – constructed with both the precise geometry required for reflecting radar waves away, as well as a dead black, iron-based coating for absorbing the remaining visible and radio electromagnetic energy – are definitely non-trivial in this context! Including—
The possibility that Iapetus was not a “rescue ark” at all, but in actuality—
A world-size warship!
This, of course, would immediately raise the very troubling possibility that the demise of Planet V -- and the environmental destruction of the entire inner solar system as a consequence, including Mars itself -- was not a naturally-occurring catastrophe at all ….
Is this, indeed, the origins of that chilling and peculiar mythos … which has, for millennia, equated “Mars” – where our ancestors in this scenario ultimately came from -- with a bloodthirsty “god of war” ….?
* * *
If any of this is true ... it could now make this striking comparison (below) far more than just a metaphor ….
Either prospect is extraordinary – Iapetus as “ark” … or Iapetus as "deathstar” -- and opens up major new avenues for using Cassini’s on-board radar during the next fly-by to determine critical dielectric parameters regarding the true composition of Iapetus’ surface -- which could ultimately allow scientific determination of its possible artificial origins … if not which “design hypothesis” is true ….
Mainstream defense research into “buckytube” dielectric and electromagnetic properties – and their application to current stealth technology -- leave no doubt that, if Iapetus is truly an artificial shell structure, composed of trillions of manufactured carbon nanotubes underneath its remaining covering of ice, their “anomalous” (compared to natural absorption models) radar signature from Cassini should ultimately tell us.
Maybe – given JPL’s obvious reticence to releasing the results of its existing Cassini Iapetus’ radar observations -- they already have ….
* * *
Which brings us to the other curious observation that JPL’s Buratti talked about: the presence in the Cassini Iapetus spectra of “organics.” Where – in our artificial “moon” scenario -- would those organic molecules originate?
Unfortunately, looking at the global Iapetus images taken by Cassini last December – with the enormous impact scars still etched across its surface – the answer now is all too obvious:
The organic component of the exposed “dark ellipse’ – and thus, by inference, the rest of the ice-covered blackened surface of Iapetus … still hiding underneath its frozen layers of ancient inside air – could be direct clues to the incineration, explosive decompression and subsequent “cold trapping” on the surface … of its former organic biosphere inside!
The magnitude of such a potential cosmic cataclysm boggles the imagination.
The thought of countless beings – along with their entire rich interior ecology -- destroyed in one hellish moment … by the inferno of the deliberate impact of one (or more) asteroid-sized objects into Iapetus … releasing a hundred million megatons or more … is almost unimaginable.
But, if true, the lasting signatures of this world-shattering catastrophe -- the “intimate mixture of water ice, amorphous carbon, and a nitrogen-rich organic compound …” – would indeed be spread for all eternity across the surface of such a shattered “world”--
Creating an immortal “winking” epitaph across the solar system … down through the countless millions of ensuing years … written in the mysterious “dark ellipse” that now forever scars the surface of this frozen tomb -- if not the psyche of the few who may have managed to escape ... to start new lives in the dim pre-history of our own world ….
Click here for Part 6