Like many Dopers, I occasionally write fiction, and recently I’ve been fiddling around with a large number of partially-written stories that I began working on years ago, trying to see if one of them grabs my interest again.
One of the stories involves a human colony living on the semi-terraformed moon of a gas giant that is drifting through interstellar space. The idea is that somehow, this Jupiter-type world was ejected from its parent star (or whatever) and ended up being flung out into interstellar space. The moon that humans colonized is somewhat Europa-like, but has some dry land; it’s heated by tidal friction and it started out with an ocean of liquid water covered with a miles-thick ice sheet, but now has a breathable atmosphere and a survivable, if not exactly warm, environment. And obviously it’s night all the time, there being no star to provide light.
But looking over this, I’m wondering if an ecosystem on such a planet would even be possible. Since there’s no parent star, there’s no light, and obviously a food chain based on photosynthetic organisms isn’t going to work, so farming of the kind we’re used to wouldn’t be viable.
(I guess you could use artificial lighting of some kind to grow traditional earth-style crops, but the logistics of providing enough artificial light to grow the amount of plant material necessary to feed a sizable human population seem quite daunting, and expensive.)
I know there’s chemosynthetic organisms in the “black smokers” at the bottom of the ocean, which form the basis of a food chain there – essentially forming an ecosystem that extracts energy from the heat left over from the Earth’s formation rather than the sun like the rest of us.
But would that kind of thing be transformable into an agricultural system that could feed a decent-sized human population? Obviously it’s a lot harder to practice agriculture if the only place you can grow your food is around jets of 700-degree water that are miles deep in the ocean. Could the bacteria that form the basis of the geothermal-based food chain be used to form the basis of an ecosystem on land, or at least in shallow water or lakes or something?
Um … I think I had other questions along these lines, but I can’t remember at the moment. If I do, I’ll post them later.
Any responses would be greatly appreciated, and if I ever publish anything I’ll list y’all in the “My Deepest Gratitude” part at the beginning of the book.