The Star Hammer
Admirals, I present to you the future of space warfare! No longer will you need to waste billions of credits on costly space battles, and millions of lives on planetary warfare with hostile cultures. For only a fraction of the cost of a heavy cruiser, I present you with a weapon capable of eliminating an entire solar system. "I present the Star Hammer!"
(A powerful and deviously simple weapon to make space warfare in any sci-fi game forever changed)
The Star Hammer a.k.a "The poor mans Solution to intergalactic warfare"
Perhaps the most deadly and cheapest device ever constructed, the "Iron hammer, is quite literally several tons of pure iron, encased in a heat resistant thermal shroud and a rudimentary sublight propulsion system and power supply.
This giant mass of metal is then directed at the sun of an enemies solar system and let loose, it's impact causing destabilization of the sun from it's core outward. Often this reaction results in a supernova, black hole, or the suns conversion into a neutron star.
No matter the outcome the civilizations surrounding the sun are either entirely destroyed or their planets rendered uninhabitable.
This works by simply speeding up the natural life and death processes of a star. Once you have an iron nuclei in the core there's a problem.
Any reactions involving iron nuclei be they fission or fusion. are endothermic, REQUIRING energy. This places the star in big trouble, as elements merge with iron nuclei taking energy from the core.
The core itself rapidly contracts, driving the temperature still higher, which actually makes the iron reactions proceed even faster similar to the rolling snowball effect. With no energy to support the outer layers, they all come crashing down (by gravity) onto the super-hot (I mean 100-900 billion degrees hot by then) core, and basically the star implodes.
All that incoming plasma onto the super hot core immediately fuses, the core rebounds, and you achieve a supernova as the implosion becomes an explosion. In short production of or introduction of iron nuclei in the core is the key to the supernova process.
There can be 3 outcomes to the core in a supernova. One, the core can be completely disrupted by the implosion, leaving nothing but hot gases and dust. (Read big badda boom!)
Or two, the core can collapse down to a neutron star, or three, in some cases, the neutron star can even be crushed down to a black hole.
Even more frightening, as little as two tons of iron is needed to start this chain reaction.
(special thanks to Tom Whiting for the quick straightforward explanation.)
This weapon was first invented by a Venusian space marine with a background in astronomy and stellar physics, who was seeking a way to eliminate the home planet of the Galzrith, a dangerously aggressive species that was driving the humans from their colonized worlds without remorse.
Using her knowledge of astronomy and basic physics he managed to convince a small asteroid mining company to help supply the necessary materials to fund his project of salvation.
When first displayed to skeptical fleet admirals, Captain Heather Davion convinced them to at least allow her to attempt to prove the effectiveness of her weapon by launching the prototype against the sun of the Glazrith's home system.
Although the device worked as expected, it had the unfortunate side effect of driving the surviving Glazrith fleet and out of system colonies into a suicidal rampage against the human occupied worlds.
In the aftermath of the battles and repeated deployment of Star Hammers where appropriate, several dozen otherwise habitable solar systems were utterly destroyed. The few resulting black holes created dangerous obstacles to hyperspace travel from then forth, marking the graveyards of battles to costly to fight with ships and men.
For her part, Captain Davion earned the nick name "System Killer" and retired at the end of the war to mixed fame.
The future of the human empire would record this weapon being kept in reserve as the "ultimate response" to any attempt by outlying colonies to rebel against their authority.
Star Hammer, Mk II:
Feared throughout inhabited space, there is not a single insterspecies governing body that has not outlawed that most horrible of weapons, the Star Hammer.
Perhaps the most terrifying notion is its simplicity, its stealth: Consisting of little more than two outsized magnetic bottles, one full of anti-protons, the other full of positrons, their support system, a cooling laser, and a massive tungsten hull, the Star Hammer is tricky to detect, and serves little more purpose than the complete destruction of habitable star systems.
On use, it is given a solid shove sunwards, from as near as the launching craft dares approach, and allowed to 'fall' through space into the surface of the sun, where the cooling laser finally begins to fire, allowing it to drop deep into the star, well into the convection cells, where it is simply allowed to evaporate, the contents of the magnetic bottles released naturally into one another, forming anti-hydrogen, then into the star itself, causing an enormous detonation.
On a 'bad' detonation, when the yield is too low for the affected star, a great solar flare is formed, a candle blazing far into the reaches of space, potentially obliterating single planets, in the case of alignment. This can be calculated, but while difficult to achieve in practice, even near misses will play havoc with the magnetic fields of planets, searing hardy electronics, and enveloping the world in frighteningly massive aurora.
On a 'moderate' detonation, the Star Hammer will ring the star much like a normal hammer striking a bell, causing the surface, and the radiation from it, to pulsate, with a cycle rate lasting from days to years, slowly dampening over aeons. Those worlds that most closely circle it will be immediately incinerated, as the surface of the star explodes outwards and devours them, at the same time, dimming the sun and pitching the further planets into deep cold - only to be reversed as the surface of the sun falls inward once more, driving the fusion cycles of the star harder and faster, causing it to blaze with light and heat until the surface begins to boil outwards once more, ultimately sterilizing what manages to stay in orbit around the star.
Most rarely, when the blast is large enough, and placed well enough, the Star Hammer may cause the outer shell of the star to be blown away completely as it expands away from the first contraction, the leading wave obliterating most of the star system...
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? Responses (14)
More deadly then the Death Star, this can destroy whole solar systems with one use. The ultimate WMD.Not much use if you want living subjects in your interplanetry empire though.
What a shiny happy submission to find on Christmas morning (okay, afternoon)
I don't know about the mechanics,or if it is actually feasible, but it looks solid and is pretty damned scary. Kudos Sil.
Where is that Siren guy when we need him? I like this delicious evil thinking on such a cosmic scale, but there are two questions that need answering:
- how much iron is needed again? I find it hard to believe, that a random asteroid out of its orbit couldn't deliver the same dose of iron or more. Suns should be dieing left and right. Or is it in the method of delivery, that it has to reach the core of a star?
- how long does it really take? I would rather imagine it works in geological timescales... giving the fuse a duration of millions of years.
The Physics is complex, and it's Christmas. Even I have a family, Manfred.
To drop a supernova immediately requires approximately 1.44 solar masses of Iron - This is the Chandrasekhar limit, the "fuse" of a supernova.1 Very, very large masses of iron (think Neptune/Jupiter+), however, will cause some very... uncomfortable immediate alterations of the stellar cycle. It will likely "pulse" in diameter over hundreds of years as it contracts from the loss of heat, then bursts outwards as the heat generated by contraction reignites fusion of the lighter elements, overcoming gravity until it cools enough to stop fusion, etc, etc, with the size of the pulse directly controlled by the relative proportion of iron added to the star. In time, the star will reach a comparatively stable phase. It will have shifted along its life span by a certain degree, by the relative increase in concentration of iron in the core - given the high temperature, and comparative availability of exothermic reactions available, the exothermic reactions will prevail, although they will be dampened by the iron. This is the normal condition inside an 'old' star. Initial pulses may be very large, enough to sweep up everything within a couple hundred million miles of the center of the star, if there is sufficient iron to initiate the death of the star. (It is expected that when Sol dies, Mars will be somewhat closer to the red-giant phase's surface than Mercury is now.)
Given sufficient iron, however, this could still be a highly effective weapon. Personally, if I had a hundred ton rock to fling, I would probably fling them at the target planets, but, that's just me - blowing holes the size of the Yucatan in ecospheres tends to make them uninhabitable too. Doesn't stop it from being a good idea.
1: For those who want the whole thing, the Chandrasekhar limit is the mass at which the gravitation over a dense body is capable of overcoming the repulsion between electrons, crushing the mass into a single body of continuous neutrally-charged nuclear mass, as the electrons join to the protons to form neutrons, and shed excess mass-energy, in a tremendous release - When it occurs in nature, it tears stars apart from the inside, shedding their outer layers with a massive burst of light and neutrinos, a supernova. If the remaining mass is beneath a certain critical limit, believed to be between 1.5 and 3 solar masses, the collapsing core will stabilize itself as the relevant quantum mechanical exclusion principles create an outwards pressure to keep the neutrons as separate entities, a neutron star. Theoretically, if a star is above that mass, yet beneath another, poorly understood limit, the neutrons can fuse into a single particle, a degenerate state referred to as 'strange matter', while this stellar corpse is tenetively dubbed a quark star. Above that unknown limit, gravity triumphs, and the object retreats behind a singularity, nature divides by zero, and we call it a black hole.
While the basic logic is sound - a sufficient mass of iron or higher elements will, indeed, cause the star to choke and die - the particulars are, as Siren pointed out far more effectively than I, a bit light. Considering the sheer size and mass of the stellar core of our own sun, 'several tons' will be about as effective in impacting the sun as a few nanograms of dust might be on us, if that much.
Essentially, it's a novel idea, but if I were to have enough mass available to me to have an effect on these multi-million-degree titan of a thermonuclear reactor that is a stellar core, I'd rather shear off pieces to use as relativistic kinetic weapons, if I needed to kill something. It's less prone to showering the local stellar region with murderous amounts of radiation, for one thing, and ELEs are just as good at convincing species to roll over and die.
White dwarf stars - the end point of our sun - consist of an earth-sized-or-larger lump of iron. The stars tend to survive through the accumulation of this mass until they run out of fuel in the fusion reaction. They also go through a process of accumulating multiple layers of 'ash' - helium being the first stage of such - that require greater pressures and temperatures than hydrogen does in order to undergo fusion. During this whole process, flukes of pressure and temperature will result in relatively trace amounts of heavier elements forming. Our star, far from being a generation-one star, has numerous elements contaminating the hydrogen already; the absorption lines of these elements are what produce the spectral lines astronomers use to determine the chemical makeup of a given stellar body. There are stars that have a fairly sizable iron content, enough to be observed across vast interstellar gulfs; they burn 'cool' compared to non-iron-heavy stars, but the reaction is hardly stifled.
One final detail, in passing - while a star is, indeed, a titanic mass of fusing gas, the pressures at the core are far from what we think of as gaseous - the nuclei are jammed at absurd densities. A slug of iron is likely to be sublimated and eroded by the pressure drafts long before it gets anywhere near the stellar core.
Thanks to Siren and Kassil.
Now, of course throwing lots of iron may be more effective when applied on a planet. But there may be other reasons. Maybe the attackers wish to make a truly lasting impression, destroying a whole solar system instead of just a planet. Or the planet is too well protected, but its beleaguered inhabitants don't protect the sun. Even if whole planets are hurtled into the star, this is still a fairly crude method of attacking, so it could be used against a more advanced civilization by a primitive race that doesn't mind the expense. So it is usable.
Apart from the energy needed to move such a piece of iron would be more effectively used directly as well, its an interesting idea.
Perhaps some means of catalyzing the reaction with some type of Unobtainium (compressed matter, etc)would allow for sub-planetary masses of iron to be used.
Nobody picked on the heat shield and the thrusters. That heat shield would have to be incredible to keep that iron stable as it moved towards the star.
Would the gravity pull it directly to the core or more in limiting orbit towards the core?
At any rate if Star Trek can have de-evolution, why can't another Sci-fi set up have a star hammer?
The science needed to make this work aside, I am by far an idiot when it comes to the true mechanics of it all, I think this is a wonderful sci-fi sub. I have read plenty of strange ideas in novels that while scientifically sound just seem to odd.
Agreed it would be easier to do it toward a singular planet to keep the system intact for future resource use or teraforming, but it is definately a "Mess with us and we take out your entire existance." Very brutal and cruel and typical of what a more brutal race of star faring egomaniacs would toss around.
Whilst I came here expecting an actual hammer, I instead found this dastardly and devious device. While I'm somewhat slow when it comes to sci-fi games, this one presents several interesting opportunities.
Far more interesting to me was the idea of someone called the 'System Killer'. If Ender was torn up over destroying a single planet, what must this NPC feel like?
The scientific discussion is pretty interesting here, but more than that I like the idea of a simple ballistic weapon that can destroy solar systems. Brutally simple.
Supposing one had the proper technology, couldn't an asteroid belt be mined for sufficient minerals to create a Star Hammer? Or enough raw iron be created in some sort of fusion reaction of other, lighter elements? I ask as a pure amateur here; my working knowledge of advanced astrophysics is surpassingly light.
Well, all that aside, I really like the idea.
You would have to go far outside our system for an asteroid belt with sufficient mass. Apparently there is less then a planet's worth of mass in the astroid belt (4% of the moon)
(^ a b Krasinsky, G. A.; Pitjeva, E. V.; Vasilyev, M. V.; Yagudina, and E. I. (July 2002). 'Hidden Mass in the Asteroid Belt'. Icarus 158 (1): 98105. Bibcode 2002Icar..158...98K. doi:10.1006/icar.2002.6837.)
Though apparently the Outer Oort cloud has possibly 5x earth's mass, though that is probably no-where near iron density. Inner Oort cloud is unknown.
I so love Siren's explanation here.