Walker Andrews looked at the data from Frontier’s nanosats in his presentation one last time. It was phenomenal, to say the least, and it really resembled a map of wind patterns across the globe, spread out over the galaxy. Well, a very small part of the galaxy, anyway.
The nanosats had quickly gotten out of range to transmit their data back in a timely manner, if the signal even could make it back to earth among all the galactic interference. But what they had discovered was impressive.
“Okay, Walker,” Jim Macomber said, “Dazzle us.”
“Right. Okay, so, here is an animation extrapolated from the nanosats, projecting their flight paths. As you can see, most were carried out in the same path as our other satellites. However, we have about a dozen that got spun around, and headed pretty much straight back at our solar system.”
“Like an eddy?” Peterson asked.
“Exactly like an eddy. We expected that this might happen, but what we didn’t expect was that the satellites veered off again before they could cross back over the heliopause.”
“What could cause that?” Jim frowned.
Walker shrugged. “We’re not sure at this point. Either they got caught up into other eddies that saved them, or there’s some phenomenon preventing the dark energy winds from entering the solar system.”
“That would explain why the sails aren’t catching wind inside the solar system,” Jenny nodded.
“This happened in every direction for the satellites that got looped back around?” Jim asked.
“Yes. From what we can tell, the solar system is in a bubble. We’re not sure if dark energy can’t come in or if just chooses to go around.”
“Chooses to go around? This is not a sentient life force,” Peterson snarled.
“Okay, bad choice of words,” Walker held up his hands. “Maybe, maybe our solar system is like a piece of flotsam in the water. The current has to go around us. We know that we’re gravitationally bound to the galaxy. And we’ve long suspected that dark energy is the force responsible for the expansion of the universe, so maybe it’s just that pockets of gravity and matter don’t get along with dark energy.”
“Start looking for a way to test this idea once we launch Zheng He,” Jim declared, standing up. “I also want special attention paid to any nanosats that are on a trajectory to Alpha Centauri. If the satellites veer away from entering that system, we’ll know there’s something about solar systems.”
“Uh, Jim?” Walker said tentatively.
“About Alpha Centauri. That is, the design specs on the nanosats, well, how do I put this?”
“The batteries won’t last long enough to continue to transmit after an hour, which, if the velocity holds, will only get them about halfway to Alpha Centauri.” Peterson said bluntly. “I wrote you a paper on that, but you signed off on the spec batteries, anyway.”
Jim nodded sagely. “Congratulations, Peterson, you’re now in charge of the power and transmitters for Zheng He’s nanosats. I want at least a day’s worth of transmitting power, over the course of the distance that entails. Get to work.”