Six Sigma Swarm

The “Six Sigma Swarm” (aka 6Σ), the fourth body in orbit of Penglai in the Kalidasa system, is essentially a cluster of planetary debris—all that remains of a failed terraforming project on what was formerly the planet “Pacifica”.

The “Pacifica Project” was well outside the norm for terraforming, but the prospect of having twice the land area of Londinium or Harvest was too good to pass up. A special team was tasked to find ways to reduce Pacifica’s crushing surface gravity.

The end of a terraforming effort is the most sensitive. The rotation is adjusted to Earth standard and a second axis of rotation is added to simulate the seasonal changes of Earth-That-Was. These changes create a period of increased seismic activity as the planet adjusts to the new rotation.

There is no record of what happened to Pacifica when this adjustment was made. Increased seismic activity (common to all terraforming) may have been too much for the planet’s thin, brittle crust. No one had ever attempted even a moon-sized gravity dampening field, much less a planet-sized field. The assumption going into the project was that a uniform field would be needed. However, when the gravity screens were being set up, it was discovered that some areas of Pacifica required stronger or weaker fields to accomplish the same level of gravity reduction. The entire effort may simply have been too complex. The terraformer, Ecotopia, was lost with all hands—as well as all records for the final six months of terraforming efforts before those records could be sent with the semi-annual status report. Only the most distant moon, Lear, survived the event.

While Lear’s terraforming is still in place, it suffers under the regular bombardment of debris as the remains of Pacifica slowly spread into an asteroid belt along the planet’s original orbit. All settlements on Lear are underground. A hundred years after a completed terraforming effort should see the world’s atmosphere processor in maintenance mode, making minor adjustments to the world’s atmosphere as the new environment seeks a new equilibrium. Lear’s atmosphere processor is still running at nearly 30% capacity to help clear dust and debris from the moon’s atmosphere. Waste dumps near the processor have some of the moon’s richest mineral deposits, all filtered from the remains of Pacifica that have fallen from the sky.

The asteroid swarm has stretched over time to fill an arc-shaped region along the old orbit of Pacifica. The swarm covers roughly 120° of the old orbit, and completes one orbit around Penglai every two and a half years. Odd gravitational surges are slowly stretching the swarm into an actual belt, but that won’t happen for another 1,000 years or so.

The Six Sigma Asteroid Swarm is a Class III navigation hazard. The field is currently a dense sphere with a diameter of some 25,000 km.

After the disaster, Blue Sun’s PR division determined that “Pacifica” was too good a name to be officially applied to a terraforming failure. The asteroid swarm was rechristened the Six Sigma Asteroid Swarm, and “Pacifica” was returned to the list of available world names. Lear’s catalog designation was adjusted appropriately.

Six Sigma Swarm

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