Love & Supernova 25 - Save Them All

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Nature is the best and most efficient killer (an Ecologist).

The rescue operations start on Betelgeuse VII. First in each one of the former towns, the online panel in the center is put back into function. The panel will display the date and hour when a rescue ship will come, as well as the situation inside the star. Betelgeuse will soon go supernova. When that will happen, there will be nothing possible to do. The rescue operations are leaded by Analemma, a former castrated male slave that now prefers to dress like a woman, looking more like a woman then like a man.

Analemma decides to set its rescue base in the former capital city. Its ship lands there, at the former palace where once the Caligula dynasty ruled the planet. The plan is to take 27000 people onboard ships, freeze them in liquid helium and send them to Betelgeuse S, a planet located ten light years away and their new home. Each landing ship can take a bit over a hundred people, so there will be needed 270 landings each day. Analemma has a fleet of a hundred landing ships, which can easily land four times a day, resulting in 400 landings. There are 62417 former towns on the planet. Each town can be visited at every 156 Earth days, after a schedule.

Landing ships take people to orbit, where a large passenger transporter awaits. There, Analemma built a small transit base. Inside that base, people will be frozen in liquid helium. This way, they will not require oxygen and food during the flight. Each passenger transporter can take 60000 people onboard and the flight takes, using maximum acceleration and deceleration, eight days. Basically, there are twenty transporters. So, there will be one transporter taking refugees every day.

Then, on Betelgeuse S, transporters land in the orbital station. From there, people will be ferried with landing ships to the surface, frozen in liquid helium. They will wake-up on the surface, where they will be resettled to already built towns.

The first rescue ship is scheduled to land in the capital. It is a historical moment. Analemma wants to be there and watch the process itself. The online panel, installed a few days ago, displays the remaining time until ship arrival. There are a few hours left and people gather to take the first place, to get out of here.

But what happened to this place? Once, Betelgeuse VII was a blowing economy and an example of democracy. And now? All people gathering here, look dirty, with ripped clothes, with scars on their faces. The town was built like any other town on Betelgeuse VII, with parallel concrete streets, that intersect other parallel streets, forming squares of 200 meters each. Each square hosted four equal properties, four houses. Now, all the houses look damaged, with broken windows and with plaques of wood replacing the glass. Many homes have their roofs destroyed. Each house was surrendered by a garden. Many people had animals. People were encouraged to farm, to produce their own food and goods. But now, much of the town seems to be abandoned. The former concrete roads are covered with mud and vegetation. Trees have grown on the roads. But still, many people grow their food in their gardens. Vegetables, tobacco, animals and even corn can be seen in many places. Only that all seems made of improvisations. On some buildings, the old paint is still visible, damaged. Former flying cars are abandoned along the roads. Others have been transformed in homes for animals.

As people gather to take the first ship, Analemma notices that there are far more people then the ship can carry. They all wait, well knowing that the ship cannot take more then 150 squeezed people.

Finally, the first ship arrives, a few minutes before schedule. The ship is scheduled to wait until it is full with people, but if not enough people gather inside, it cannot wait more then an hour. Then, it will fly an hour to the passenger transporter and has another hour to deploy all the people. And then, it has another hour to fly to the next targeted town. Four hours are allocated for each landing. This would mean that a ship can land 6 times a day, but Analemma knows very well that unknown factors might occur and always adds reserve time to each schedule.

The ship lands where the town center once was, near the online panel. It is still warm from atmosphere friction. The door opens and people fight to get inside. They don't calm down. Instead of entering in a row, they fight with each other. Analemma knew this will happen. Instead of taking a hundred people, the ship gets filled up to refuse. The pilot is instructed not to get out of the ship, to wait until there is no more free space and to fly. But, outside, people start to fight with each other, to get inside. When there is no more room, the door closes and the ship starts to fly.

"Sandra, how many people you have?" asks Analemma on its radio.

"I don't know exactly, but it looks like I have almost 200".

"Can you fly with this extra weight?"

"It is a bit heavy, but I can. I will make it to schedule".

Analemma returns to the former palace, where many online interactive panels allow it to see what is going on the planet. About every 15 seconds, a ship lands somewhere, taking refugees. Everywhere, the same happens. Analemma can see on one panel, images from the cameras of a ship. People try to get inside, they try to squeeze through the entrance door by any means. They even kill each other. Inside, they squeeze as tight as they can. There is no room for all. No luggage is allowed.

Then, as the ship starts to fly, people in the hull struggle to stay. When it lands, each ship takes oxygen from the atmosphere, so that people will have what to breath. As the ship accelerates and turns to reach the transfer base, people are exposed to powerful moves. Some throw-up. A few claustrophobic people start to be more agitated. Well, this lasts for 40 to 50 minutes, then the door opens. People get into a larger room of the station, where they mix with people brought with other ships.

There, they meet the first people from Betelgeuse S. They are former slaves, now free people. Some people, in the chaos, lose contact with their loved ones. The former slaves try to convince everyone to get to the freezing tanks. It is chaos. People scream, some of them fight. But, in the end, they all understand that they must go on. They must go to the freezing tanks and get loaded on the transporter.

Once they are frozen, the process is all automated. Each person is token on a conveyer belt and sent to the docking place, in liquid helium. Frozen, they are no longer noisy and no longer cause problems. The hardest job is, just as Analemma thought, for the people who have to guide refugees to the freezing tanks. They have weapons, not to kill, but to paralyze those who will not cooperate.

Overall, everything goes just as Analemma planned things to go. There is no other way. It is impossible to take more people out once. Betelgeuse S could not afford to buy more ships for the operation. Landing ships return to the planet, to their next target, to take more refugees. Pilots would like to make extra landings, to take more people, but Analemma made a clear schedule for everyone.

The first transporter gets loaded with 78000 people. It has a default capacity of 70000 people, but there is always some extra space. They all go to their new homes and their new life. A few hours before it detaches, a new transporter arrives to the base. All is working perfectly. The new transporter opens its cargo for passengers just when the other one closes its doors.

If all works like this, the population can be evacuated in 250 to 300 days, not 700 as was the initial plan.

There is another thing that Analemma had in plan. The empire of the Pleiades had a secret plan to take over both Betelgeuse VII and Betelgeuse S, during the rescue operations. Since Betelgeuse VII was isolated to the world, the empire of Pleiades sent its criminals in exile there. All were transformed into women with the help of surgery and DNA modifications, then abandoned on Betelgeuse VII. Their bodies might be transformed, but their brains no. The plan was that these criminals will start an attack or even a rebellion on the planet, in the ships or even on the new home planet, Betelgeuse S. Then, the Pleiades will interfere with a military unit, camouflaged as a mafia faction. This would give the emperor the right to interfere with a larger military unit, to formally 'bring in the peace' and conquer Betelgeuse S.

In order to counter such an attack, Analemma has its own military unit waiting on orbit, made of former slaves. If needed, they are ready to land and stop any rebellion.

Not much time ago, ships from the Pleiades were already stationed in orbit around Betelgeuse VII. But just before the rescue operations started, there was a massive attack from the pirates of UV Ceti, which destroyed the whole fleet. Then, these pirates, with their bloody captain Angela Northern, went to the Pleiades and started a war there.

Angela Northern and its fleet of pirates started a war against the powerful empire of the Pleiades, first taking down all the fleet stationed around Betelgeuse VII. Without this, rescue operations could have ended in a more different way. Compared to the powerful weapons of the Pleiades fleet, the small fleet that Analemma brought here would have been defeated in an instant, like a snowball in hell. No rescue operations could be possible in such conditions.

After a few days, Analemma finds out that everything is working very well. It no longer needs to check out everything. However, violence occur on the planet. Some people, trying to get faster out, go from town to town, searching for the next scheduled landing. When a ship lands, there are many people from other towns. Some people try to kill the others or at least to scare the others with weapons, to get the first out. Others try to convince people that, the ones who lived will end-up as slaves in UV Ceti. All this, to scare others and get themselves first to the ships. But Analemma does not bother. There is enough time to evacuate the whole population, to take everyone out. Let the most desperate ones leave first, then will be rescued the others.

Everything goes just as planned. Landing ships make four landings every day, taking away more and more people. They follow their schedules and after 156 earth days they return to their previous destinations. A ship lands for the second time in the capital, to take other people away. This time, people fight again to get out and save their lives. The third time a rescue ship lands, not many people remain outside. Almost all the

**********

Analemma sits in the former palace, in its room, watching the rescue operation on the online panels. The transmission is not very good. Betelgeuse is getting closer to its death by each day. The star has used all its oxygen in the core. For a while, oxygen was still fused in a shell surrounding the core. Now, since no more energy is produced, the core collapses, increasing pressure and temperature, trying to fuse something heavier, to generate some energy.

In the core, temperature increased to two billion degrees K and pressure reaches 500 metric tons per cubic centimeter. One matchbox filled with matter from the core of Betelgeuse will weight like a full loaded cargo train. Things were not like this before. When Caligula I, the founder of Betelgeuse VII colony made its first research, conditions were so different in the core. Temperature was around 80 million degrees, which is 25 times cooler. Matter density was also much lower, at 30 metric tons per cubic centimeter. These values are huge. Basically, all atoms in the core are tightly squeezed, while their electrons fly in the tight space between. At such huge temperatures, all light is in the gamma ray spectrum.

And this is what triggers the death of a giant star. Matter is tightly squeezed and collisions between atoms, between electrons and even between gamma rays are very common. Sometimes, during these very energetic collisions, some of the energy is lost under the form of a neutrino and antineutrino pair. Each neutrino files away from the core, taking stealing some of the energy. To compensate, the core contracts more, heating itself and producing even more neutrino. It is a runaway, accelerated road to death.

Each time the core finishes a fuel, it contracts until temperature and pressure are just right for another nuclear fuel to ignite. Each time, the star fuses the ashes of a previous fuel. Each time, something is transformed into something more heavy. Oxygen is exhausted. The star now tries to fuse sodium, via photodisintegration. A sodium atom absorbs an energetic gamma ray and loses a part of it: a proton, a neutron or an alpha particle (helium nucleus), becoming something lighter: neon or fluorine, which further loses something, all the way to oxygen. This process consumes energy. Then, oxygen atoms fuse and produce silicon, generating energy. In addition, released protons, neutrons and alpha particles merge with other sodium, magnesium and aluminum atoms, generating energy. Atoms with even number of protons are more stable then those with odd number. So, in the end, photodisintegration of sodium produces mainly magnesium and silicon.

Sodium fusion increases in intensity, trying to produce enough energy to counterbalance the neutrino loss... but before this happens, all sodium is lost, because it is not in large quantities, only about 10%. So, core contraction is not stopped, only slowed. Soon, magnesium fusion will start. Because magnesium is in higher amounts, around 30%, it will stop core collapse for a while.

Magnesium fusion usually works by alpha decay. A magnesium atom absorbs a high-energy gamma ray and loses an alpha particle (helium nucleus), becoming neon. Then, the more unstable neon loses another alpha particle and becomes oxygen, also losing energy. Oxygen atoms fuse into silicon or phosphorus, producing energy. Released alpha particles merge with other magnesium atoms and produce silicon, generating energy. Overall, the process produces more energy then it consumes, powering-up the star for a while.

Then, the little amounts of aluminum enter the reaction. they lose a proton via photodisintegration, becoming magnesium, while the released proton merges with another aluminum atom to form silicon. Magnesium undergoes photodisintegration in the same way, down to oxygen, which fuses into silicon. Aluminum fusion does not produce significant energy and it almost does not have any influence in the evolution of the star.

In case of Betelgeuse, there is enough magnesium to restore the core equilibrium and delay the collapse, but in case of many stars, there isn't and magnesium fusion goes mostly unnoticed, just like sodium fusion. Because of this, the star will live 40 additional days.

Betelgeuse has entered the photodisintegration era.

Four rescue ships have landed to each town. Now, they are no longer overcrowded. The rescue operation proves to be a great success. There is enough time to rescue everyone. But, many people have left the towns and are now living in remote places. The rescue operation will be far more complicated.

Once sodium fusion ends, Analemma scans the star with a neutrino telescope. The unique neutrino signatures allow scientists to know what exactly is in the core: 31% magnesium, 52% silicon, 11% sulfur, 4% aluminum and 2% other, heavier elements. Now, everyone knows that Betelgeuse has 189 days left. It will explode at the beginning of 3077, a bit faster then previously estimated. After magnesium fusion will end, scientists will know how much time is left with an error of two hours... but at that time, there will only be 60 days left.

Finally, silicon will start to fuse into iron. But, when that will happen, there will be only two days left. Each online panel will show time left in seconds. Once silicon fusion will start, everyone will have to evacuate the planet, to escape the blast wave of the supernova.

**********

Only nature could create such a silent and deadly killer, as the neutrino particle. Without it, the last stages of evolution of red giant stars would last much longer. In the end, the supernova is actually triggered by a massive neutrino emission, so powerful that it blasts away the outer layers of the star. About 99% of the energy released in a supernova is neutrino radiation, only 1% is mechanical or thermal energy or visible light. Without this, stars would not explode this way. Their cores would contract slowly. As this happens, temperature would increase until the outer layers would heat-up and the star would gently expel its outer layers as a powerful solar wind, in a much longer process. All would last far longer.

But why does this tiny subatomic particle exist? Why do dying stars have to waste all their energy creating neutrinos?

Because nature is the most efficient killer.



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