Thursday, November 29, 2012
Extinction Level Event.
The asteroid travelled through deep space for a billion years, when it came into the orbital influence of a planetary system. In response to this new stimulus, it changed its course and headed towards an inevitable fate, perhaps one long overdue.
The first few times into and out of the inner system, it missed all of the planets, moons, and the star itself. Like a yo-yo, it went around and around, and in and out. Every nearby body bent its trajectory, some just a little, and some a lot. At this stage of the game, the odds were even that it would hit something. Or perhaps it would find its own home, and take up an orbit, and begin circling around the star just like any other body in the system. With its mass fighting against its momentum, there was one brief moment of time when anything was possible. But there was no escape. That brief moment occurred when the nearest other star body was on the far side of the system, relatively speaking in relation to the asteroid. If it had been on the near side of the system, its gravitational influence, small as it was, might have pulled the asteroid out into space again, with sufficient velocity to escape the system. It was not to be.
When the balance is so fine, even a feather can tip the scales, and with the accretion of several small comets, an asteroid or two, with the aggregation of dust, and particles, the thing finally became too heavy for its own good. A decision had been made, whether by mischievous spirits, or God in his infinite wisdom, predestining all things at the time of creation. Or perhaps some unconscious decision had been made by an indifferent Mother Nature. What had caused it makes no difference. A cause is a cause and an effect is an effect.
Millennia passed, and it finally found its mark. Plunging down past a trio of small, stony satellites, each snug and secure in their own familiar orbits, it hit the atmosphere, dense and deep compared to the hard vacuum around it. With its fiery mass streaming a tail of flame, it smashed into the unnamed planet, which wasn’t much bigger than itself, with enough force to shatter it.
The planet was about one and a half billion years old, and uninhabited. No animal life, other than small, unicellular creatures, sharing the characteristics of plant, animal and something else.
But their simplicity made no difference. Their fate was all the same.
Except for one. This one was different. While dormant in the cold winter months, this life-form was neither plant nor animal. With the extreme conditions, inimical to life at the best of times, the life-form had adapted. It had grown, and adaptively radiated, filling in ecological niches, and since there was little competition, it filled in all of them until it covered the planet.
With the brief flash of heat and light to stimulate activity, the spore-sacs opened, and began to gently drop their precious burden to the ground below. Summer was short, and there was much to be done. When the planet disintegrated, the spores had no ground to fall on. With the rushing winds, the vortex created by the wreckage of a planet, the little spores, the only hope of posterity for the life-form, found themselves floating in an unfamiliar environment.
To the spores it did not matter. They were designed, built, and adapted to prevail under the harshest conditions, and they went back into dormancy. While the greatest number of them perished, enough survived. Some of them had sufficient velocity to escape the system, as over time the asteroid was not the only object to impact or pass through the system, and the spores were subject to the attraction of bodies just like every other body in the universe.
More millennia passed; tens of millions of years passed.
And then one day, although the spores were completely unconscious of it, they began to speed up. Perhaps they were coming home, although they would not have recognized the word.
Every life form needs a home.
(Above photo: Comet Hale-Bopp, by Phillip Salzberger, Wiki Commons 2.0 Share-Attribution.)