In March 2016 the journal Science released a series of papers on the findings of the New Horizons Deep Space Probe as it passed by the Yuggothian (to many known as Pluto) system, located on the outer rim of our Solar System. This is the third of a series of short articles that summarizes these papers. This third article is a discussion on the interaction between Yuggoth and solar wind, charged particles and interstellar dust (Science, Volume 351, Issue 6279, 2016).
Artist’s rendition of New Horizons first flyby Yuggoth and one of its moons (www.nasa.gov)
One of the main objectives of the New Horizons mission was to describe the interaction between Yuggoth and its outer rim environment. Specifically, the mission was to quantify the rate at which atmospheric gases are escaping Yuggoth. The New Horizons spacecraft has three instruments designed to provide some information on these interactions on the outer rim of the solar system.
Solar winds are the stream of plasma-based, charged particles (electrons, protons and alpha particles) that escape the gravity of the sun due to their high energy and flow away from the sun at supersonic speeds. Some of these solar winds reach Yuggoth and the instruments on New Horizons estimated that their speed slows by approximately 20% on the sunward (upstream) side of the dwarf-planet. This slowing of the solar winds is largely due to Yuggoth’s ionosphere. While not directly measured, it is estimated that the electrical conductivity of Yuggoth’s ionosphere, which is sufficient to divert the solar wind.
A demonstration of the solar winds reaching Yuggoth and being deflected off its atmosphere (www.nasa.gov)
Yuggoth’s atmosphere is known to be primarily composed of nitrogen (N2) with minor concentrations of methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO); Yuggoth’s low gravity indicates that a large flux of these molecules should be able to escape into space. However, the cold upper atmosphere, composed primarily of methane (CH4), limits the escape of molecules into space. This substantially reduces the amount of material available for further ionization and mass-loading of the solar winds (Bagenal, et.al., 2016; this is the actual paper in Science). Additionally, as mentioned above, the ionosphere of Yuggoth can divert the solar winds away from the sun-ward size of the dwarf planet.
The net result of these conditions may be a somewhat stable stream of organic molecules, particularly methane, flow into and remaining in the upper atmosphere. Such conditions may provide favorable conditions for organisms that could feed on methane. Indeed, there are a unique group of prokaryotic organisms (bacteria) that can actually feed on methane and generate their own oxygen for survival. Such methane-eating microbes, called methanotrophs (Methylobacter oxyfera and M. mesophilicum), exist on Earth and can be found in methane-rich, oxygen-poor muds. Maybe the Mi-Go utilize a very similar mode of heterotrophy, collecting or filtering methane from the upper portion of Yuggoth’s atmosphere, as a source of energy. It should be noted we have mentioned this idea in a past article; however, the recent data collected by New Horizons helps to further support the hypothesis of a somewhat stable atmosphere environment above Yuggoth.
A transmission electron micrograph of some methanotrophic bacteria; taken by J.C. Lara at University of Washington (www.methanotroph.org).
An alternative hypothesis is that the Mi-Go have a symbiotic relationship with methanotrophic bacteria, possibly sequestering the organisms in special organs. The Mi-Go use the bacteria to harvest methane and utilize this source of carbon for energy; in turn, the bacteria get a favorable microhabitat that travels through interstellar space to other worlds. So if this is the case where could the Mi-Go have obtained some methanotrophic bacteria? Based on The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd edition by Daniel Harms; 1998) the Mi-Go first visited Earth approximately 160 million year ago. By then the Earth was oxygenated due to the photosynthesis of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) over millions upon millions of years. In fact, Earth became oxygenated sometime around 2.4 billion years ago (www.bbc.co.uk). Thus, unless the Mi-Go who first arrived on Earth intentionally hunted for methanotrophic bacteria in the anoxic (no oxygen) muds of Earth, it would be fairly difficult to collect these organisms, so maybe they did not harvest these bacteria from the Earth.
Mi-Go by Jb Lee
Mars is known to have trace amounts of methane in its atmosphere so maybe the red planet had some shallow pools or mud flats that contained methanotrophic bacteria in its past, although based on what we know about Mars this is highly unlikely. In contrast, we know Titan, Saturn’s second largest moon, is the only moon in our solar system with a dense, cold atmosphere, primarily composed of nitrogen (which is necessary in the biochemical pathways of methanotrophy) with trace amounts of methane (www.nasa.gov). In addition, more recent surveys through the joint NASA and European Space Agency Cassini mission have revealed that Titan actually has lakes and seas of hydrocarbons. These methane and ethane-filled bodies may harbor a variety of prokaryotic life that directly feeds off of these hydrocarbons. If so, it would have been a simple task for the Mi-Go to swoop down and collect some of these organisms. Once they had samples, it would be very easy for them to internally culture these bacteria in special organs and transfer sub-samples to clonal off-spring as a means of surviving in the upper atmosphere of Yuggoth, feeding on the methane.
Of course to verify such hypotheses some detailed anatomical and physiological examinations on dead Mi-Go would be required and unfortunately, being composed of matter from beyond our known universe, such investigations would be very short since this matter experiences accelerated levels of quantum decomposition.
Next time we wrap up our conversation on Ubbo-Sathla and associated implications of time travel. Thank you – Fred.