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Aug. / Sept. 2023


Star Light, Star Bright
By Nina Shepardson

Abhay Subramanian paced in circles around the bridge of the Goddard. The holographic display hanging in midair at the front of the room showed an image of the star system they were approaching. Although he knew it wouldn’t make a difference, Abhay couldn’t resist the urge to lean forward and peer at it, as if there were some tiny detail he was missing. Had the system truly been abandoned for uncounted centuries, the signal they’d detected the last cry of a long-dead civilization? Or was he about to make one of the most momentous discoveries in human history?

There was no doubt that there had been a civilization here at some point. The readings were proof of that. Pulsars were a well-known phenomenon, and even variable stars, whose pulses were irregular, weren’t unheard of. But no star would naturally pulse in the first ten digits of pi.

“Switch sails to braking configuration,” he ordered.

“Switching sails,” Alice Pindris confirmed. She swiped her fingers across her holo-console. The main display switched to an image of the photon sail that trailed behind the Goddard. With a grace that belied its enormous size, the alumina sheet split into two pieces that shifted into a precise orientation. Now, instead of speeding them on their way to the destination star, the laser beam sent from the colony at Kepler-438 would reflect from the outer sail onto the inner one, countering their momentum and slowing them down.

“J’Erisen, are we picking up any signals that could potentially be a form of communication? Any clearly artificial objects in the system?" MORE



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