The surprising news that NASA has discovered a potentially habitable planet orbiting Kapetyn's star, only 13 light years from Earth, has motivated Revelation Space author Alastair Reynolds to write a brand new story about a space probe visiting Kapetyn and sending back some sobering data.
Top image: NASA/JPL.
Reynolds' story, "Sad Kapetyn," is posted over at the website for the Queen Mary University of London School of Physics and Astronomy, and it's basically a monologue by the space probe from Earth that reaches Kapetyn's star. And amazingly enough, it finds evidence of intelligent life. But... there's a problem. And it may have some terrible implications for the human race. The best part is the way Reynolds captures the voice of a curious A.I. zooming through space.
Here's how it begins:
"Hello, Earth. It's me again.
I hope you're receiving my signal loud and clear.
You'll be glad to hear that I've warmed up after the long centuries of my interstellar cruise phase. Having run a complete health check, I can confirm that all aspects of me are performing nominally. Better than nominally, if truth be told. At the risk of boastfulness, I'm actually in excellent shape. Propulsion, AI core, long-range sensors and instrumentation, navigation and communication assemblies - I couldn't be in better condition.
Not bad for a piece of space hardware which has already visited six solar systems, without ever needing to return home. Of course, I can't take credit for myself. I was just well manufactured - built to endure for thousands of years.
All the same, thank you for making me.
Onto business, anyway - and I can't begin to tell you what I've found, out here around Kapteyn's star! This really is an extraordinary place - a solar system unlike any that I've already visited. I wish you could be here with me, seeing things through my eyes."