To Mona, there was a piece that continued to gnaw at her regarding the asteroid belt that the dwarf planet Ceres was a part of; she felt that it may be somehow connected to the impact event on Mars. She was in the perfect spot to investigate such speculation because she was orbiting Ceres. Mona asked, “Levie?”
Levie, always in touch, responded, “Yes, M.”
Mona asked, “The theories regarding the asteroid belt … please review and evaluate.”
Mona went on. “Could Ceres have been a moon to a planet that was destroyed in the vicinity of the asteroid belt?”
“Not according to prevailing accepted cosmological theory. It was formed early in the solar system’s formation, 4.5 billion years ago, and the remaining asteroids in the belt were remnants of a never-formed larger planet body.”
“Could the larger planet body have been in existence within the last five hundred thousand years—let’s say four hundred thousand years, give or take a small percentage?”
“Not according to prevailing theory, but not impossible,” Levie exclaimed.
Mona needed all the known details. “Levie, is there any way to test my theory regarding the age of an asteroid’s formation?”
“Yes, by measuring their isotopic composition to find their age and other characteristics. The problem, assuming the asteroids in the belt are fragments of a larger body, is how to find the newest byproducts of an impact or explosion on an asteroid.”
“Levie, let’s transfer all remaining personnel from your holds to other mother ships or to Ceres immediately. We be asteroid hunting!”
Mona engaged the thrusters to slide Leviathan out of Ceres’s orbit. Leviathan had transferred all noncrew personnel to other ships or to Ceres’s interior. Mona had requested forensic geologists and a team of scientists equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to date selected asteroid samples in the belt. All Mona really needed was to find examples of explosive deformation where heat and recrystallization had reset the ionized materials’ isotope clocks back to zero; the concentration ratios of such isotopes would indicate a young sample instead of an ancient one.
Of specific interest was zirconium silicate, which could be dated in rocks that formed from about 1 million years ago to over 4.5 billion years ago with routine precisions in the 0.1–1 percent range. If zirconium is found that dates younger than billions of years, that would be evidence that may indicate the asteroids were from a destructive process not long ago at all.
Within the first few hours, Mona found an asteroid that showed promise. Her experience in prospecting for rare Earth elements had honed Mona’s techniques to maneuver Leviathan close enough to use grappling hooks and stabilized hydraulic spacers. These spacers prevented damage to Leviathan’s hull. A team of geologists were sent in near weightless conditions to take samples that showed any areas of heat metamorphosis or igneous intrusions on the surface.
Once the materials were inside, the dating trials began. It was immediately apparent that some of the samples were showing ages under the lowest limits of accuracy, because they were much too young to be dated. In geologic terms, they were brand new. Further testing for thorium isotopes, including thorium 229, showed ratios consistent with rock formation approximately four hundred thousand years ago. Bingo! A planet larger than Ceres may have existed in the asteroid belt and been destroyed some four hundred thousand years ago.
The final report to the Prometheus Council was as follows:
- Mars was nearly destroyed two hundred thousand years ago.
- An unknown planet in the asteroid belt for which Ceres may have been a moon was possibly destroyed approximately four hundred thousand years ago.
- The Voynich manuscript confirms the date of Mars’s destruction to be two hundred thousand years ago and predicts disaster next year to Earth. The prehumans left in possible anticipation of a significant threat.
- The prophets of the Prometheus Council predict disaster next year as well.
- So we have multiple sources predicting a periodic cycle of destruction within our solar system every two hundred thousand years.
- We are now due for the next occurrence.
- Finally, the ‘danger out there’ may well be coming from the Pillars of Creation and possibly from the areas blanked out on purpose.
The Prometheus Investigation Team’s recommendations included the following:
- Reorient all available telescopes operating in the spectra of visible light and nonvisible light toward the Pillars of Creation (especially those in the vicinity of Ceres).
- Determine why the prehumans evacuated, if possible.
Devise a plan to destroy or deflect one or more incoming killer-size comets or other threat.