“The Terminator” by Laurence Suhner, Nature (2017-02-22), science fiction short story
A woman has a task which makes her contemplate beginnings and endings, yin and yang: terminators. And she does this in a system of a tiny cool star and three habitable planets.
I’ll grant that this story may be a little lacking in the dramatic/fictional departments and some of this is just excitement over the timely topic but this is a brilliant evocation of the possibilities of the system. No, it is almost certainly not like everything described in the story and it’s not even very likely it’s much of anything like it (though the author does address some of my concerns about the effects of tidal locking on temperatures and atmospheres and the effects of strange suns and their radiation fields on close planets and so on). Still, one of the strengths of real science fiction is its ability to make genuine possibilities imaginatively concrete and this story concisely achieves that.
For the non-fiction behind the fiction:
- These seven alien worlds could help explain how planets form (nature.com*)
- A whopping seven Earth-size planets were just found orbiting a nearby star (popsci.com)
- Star found with record seven Earth-size planets (spaceflightnow.com)
- Major Discovery! 7 Earth-Size Alien Planets Circle Nearby Star (space.com**)
- Searching for Life on 7 Nearby Alien Worlds: How Scientists Will Do It (space.com)
* At the time of this post, this article is inaccurate (or at least makes a wildly optimistic, unreasonable, and unnecessary overstatement): “All of them orbit at the right distance to possibly have liquid water somewhere on their surfaces.” Only three do (if three can be described as “only”).
** Ditto: “all of them may be capable of supporting life as we know it…”