975: Occulting Telescope
Title text: Type II Kardashev civilizations eventually completely enclose their planetary system in a Dyson sphere because space is way too big to look at all the time.
Cueball takes the useful practice of occulting stars beyond its intended purpose. Occulting is used in astronomy to block the light from a star under observation so that adjacent dim objects, such as any surrounding extrasolar planets, might be more easily detected and examined. This refers to a proposed starshade mission, envisioned for space telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope, in which a large occulter would fly in formation with that telescope.
Instead of blocking the light of a single star for the purposes of observation, Cueball proposes blocking the light from all stars, for the purpose of making him feel comfortable with the night sky. Cueball feels, some might say irrationally, that "there are too many stars", and "it's been freaking me out". This may be a reference to Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall" which explores in depth the psychological implications by which stars make some people feel small and insignificant because they demonstrate just how vast is the universe.
A Dyson sphere is a theoretical construction consisting of a network of satellites that orbit and completely surround a star. The purpose to capture and transmit all of the available solar energy back to a planet.
A Type II Kardashev civilization is a theoretical civilization that has advanced to the point where it has harnessed the energy radiated by its own star (for example, the stage of successful construction of a Dyson sphere).
For comparison purposes:
- A Type I Kardashev civilization is one that has harnessed the energy of their entire planet.
- A Type III Kardashev civilization is one that has harnessed the energy of their entire galaxy.
- We are currently less than I.
The title text reveals that Type II Kardashev civilizations construct Dyson spheres not for the purposes of capturing all solar energy, but merely to block the view of all that hideous space. This may allude to Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel series, where a planet called Krikkit is completely obscured by a dust layer. Upon building a spacecraft to explore what lies behind that dust cover, they decide to destroy all living beings in the rest of the universe. See http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Krikkit.
The concept of an occulting space telescope was visited again in 1730: Starshade.
- [Cueball is presenting his new telescope in front of a white board, pointing to the diagram of said telescope with a pointer. He is standing on a raised podium facing a crowd off-panel]
- Cueball: The occulting observatory consists of two parts—the telescope and the discs.
- [A frame-less panel with a black center with white drawings that shows the diagram from the white board in the first panel. It shows a satellite with solar panels above and below the main body which has a front end that looks wider like a telescope. The satellite is labeled with a small arrow pointing at the front end. 11 light waves are indicated as coming towards it from the right, and below these they are labeled. Three of the waves is blocked in the middle by a small vertical line which is also labeled with a small arrow. Above and below the diagram outside the black area Cueball is narrating.]
- Cueball (narrating): When the telescope sees a star, a disc is carefully steered to block its light.
- Label: Telescope
- Label: Light from star
- Label: Disc
- Cueball (narrating): This procedure is repeated until all stars are covered.
- [Back to Cueball on the podium who now looks down on the audience from where a question emanates at the top of the left frame.]
- Person #1 (off screen): Wait, all? Why?
- Cueball: I'll feel better.
- [Close-up on Cueball. as two different persons talks to him, from the lower left frame.]
- Person #2 (off-screen): I thought the point was to image extrasolar planets.
- Cueball: The point is that there are too many stars.
- Cueball: It's been freaking me out.
- Person #2 (off-screen): What?
- Person #3 (off screen): He has a point...
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