The Slumber of the Suns

Cheryl Johnston
Astronomy Camp Essay
March 7, 2000

Explorers, scientists, and engineers had been travelling months to reach the Sirius system. They had traveled 8.6 light years to reach the Sirius stars and today they reached the binary star system. They would be making contact with the people that lived there. They were making their voyage in the starship U.S.S. Symphony, commanded by Cheryl Johnston with a crew complement of thirty-five. Scientists hoped to gather more information to build on their currently limited amount. Explorers wanted to gather data on the planet; its people and culture. The engineers on the mission were looking forward to learning new technology that might be useful to humans.

Captain Johnston looked out the view screen and a planet looking very similar to Earth met her eyes. Clouds of white swirled around the primarily blue globe and masses of green and brown land could be seen.

"Approaching the fourth planet of the Sirius system," said Lieutenant Palor.

"Prepare for landing," replied the captain.

"Primary landing procedures complete. Taking her down." The ship landed softly on a landing pad.

"Good work people. Let's go." The three highest ranked officers aboard, along with half of the rest of the crew went to meet their new friends. The other crewmembers stayed behind to secure the ship and start what minor repairs she needed. They stepped out into a bright, warm day in the outskirts of a busy city. A welcoming party was waiting them. The leader of the group stepped forward. He was dressed in warm colored robes sewn together with golden thread. His hair was long, intricately wrapped to hold on his headdress.

"Welcome to Brenar four," he said. "I am Rein Shuk, leader of this planet. On behalf of the people of Brenar, I welcome you."

The captain stepped forward to shake Rein Shuk's outstretched hand. His fingers were long and bony, probably a sign of old age. "Thank you. I am Captain Cheryl Johnston." While gesturing towards two of her crewmen, she said, "This is Commander Williams and Lieutenant Palor."

"Greetings. We will escort you to our main facilities where you may have something to eat. Then we will take you to our work places and laboratories so that you may gather your information." The captain nodded her head and the group set off.

After the crew had been fed with delicious Brenari food, they all went in separate directions to start gathering information. Rein Shuk gave a brief tour of the city to the commanding officers. He showed them the main attractions, some homes, and one of their hospitals. They reached a large, domed shaped complex where many people were working.

"This is our command center," said Rein Shuk. "Many things go on here, but mostly it is our main government structure. If you follow me this way, I will give you a room where you can access our database. You will be able to find most of the information you are looking for. I can stay with you only for a few more minutes, but then I must attend to other things." They entered the room where a large screen was placed on one wall, and a main workstation was placed in front of it. The Brenari leader pushed a sequence of buttons and brought up a document on a nearby screen.

"This document will help you understand how to use our technology," he said.

"Forgive me, Rein, but it seems as though you are giving us quite a bit of freedom for having known us such a short amount of time."

"I assure you, precautionary measures have been taken. You will find that you will not be able to access any more than our factual database and that you are being constantly monitored. I must leave now. You have three hours. At the end of that time, my people will take you to living quarters, unless you want to stay on your ship for the duration of your visit."

"No," the captain replied. "We would like to get away from our ship for awhile. Your living quarters are welcome." The Brenari leader nodded and left.

"Well, let's get started then," said Johnston. She started off by reading over the document that the Rein had brought up. When she felt fairly comfortable with what she was doing, she accessed the data files on binary star systems. She found a lot of what she already knew. For example, she knew that binary stars, are stars that hold each other captive by the force of gravity and that each one orbits around the other. Also, she read that more light comes from Sirius than Sirius B, since Sirius B is a white dwarf star, smaller than the size of Earth. She brought up a picture of the Sirius system on the large screen. The picture showed the gravitational field of each star and where those fields intersected. With only five planets, this system was very much different from her home system. She noticed that instead of a steady, elliptical orbit, the planets assumed wavy, more circular orbits around the Sirius stars. Williams and Palor were looking at the same data.

"Look at this. It's like these planets can't decide which star they want to orbit," said Williams.

"And because of that, they experience sharp weather changes throughout the entire year. One day it could be a warm summer day, like this, and the next it could be near freezing," Palor added. "They have evolved different agricultural technologies due to those weather changes. Most of their food is grown indoors in artificial environments."

"The scientists here estimate that in another couple billion years the Sirius stars will begin to touch one another," Cheryl stated.

"I wonder if the people are effected at all?" asked Palor.

"I don't think that they are," said Williams. "They have a little longer life expectancy, but that could be due to better medical technology."

The team researched for their entire allotted time and even deviated from their original plans of merely learning more about the Sirius stars and binary systems. They also looked at more information about the culture and found that is was a regular practice to watch the sunset every evening. They all looked forward to doing the same.

The command team met up with the Rein again to watch "the slumber of the suns" as the Brenari people had named it. They were in a special viewing structure that permitted them to look at the stars without risk of optical damage.

As Sirius set, it threw oranges, purples, and pinks across the sky much like the Sun. Just as is was about to disappear, Sirius B began to touch the horizon. Being more dim caused it to put on a less spectacular show, but it was still wonderful to see. The humans all noticed that the night sky was eerily dark since Brenar four had no satellite. Stars were scattered across the sky in a different arrangement than that seen from Earth. The scientists pointed out their home star to everyone and it was seen easily, being one of the brightest stars in the sky.

With their mission completed the people of Earth left Brenar four after a couple months of stay on the planet. All were rejuvenated and some wished to stay longer, but also looked forward to returning home. After one last "slumber of the suns", the U.S.S. Symphony departed and shot away like a star falling in the sky.