Author : Bob Newbell
The President of the United States watched the viewscreen in the Oval Office as it displayed what appeared to be mist condensing on the lens of the camera that had recorded the video. After a few seconds, the tiny droplets started coming together and sliding to the edges of the screen in rivulets.
“That’s helium-neon rain, Madam President,” said the administrator of NASA seated next to her. After a few minutes the mist dissipated and the video showed a dark, copper-colored liquid flowing slowly around the camera. It gave the impression of the view from a submarine sailing through an ocean of maple syrup.
“That’s liquid metallic hydrogen,” said the administrator. “We’ll jump ahead because this pretty much stays the same for most of four hours.”
After he advanced the video, something started to appear in the flowing liquid. Over a span of two minutes, a few circular objects materialized. The circles multiplied and resolved themselves into dome-shaped structures. A few people in the room gasped. Lines started forming, connecting the domes together. Small oval shapes moved along the lines. A few spherical objects appeared to float above the domes, moving slowly in various directions.
“Is that what it looks like?” asked the President.
“We believe so, Madam President,” answered the administrator. “We think this image is an ‘aerial’ view of a city.”
“There’s a city on the surface of the core of Jupiter? So at Jupiter’s core conditions are Earth-like?”
“No, ma’am,” said the administrator. “The pressure inside that part of Jupiter is around 600 million gigapascals.”
“Normal atmospheric pressure on Earth is a little less than 15 pounds per square inch. At the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, the pressure is eight tons per square inch. The pressure inside Jupiter at that depth is on the order of 300,000 tons per square inch. That’s why the Jupiter Deep Exploration Probe was so expensive and took so long to build. Whole new technologies had to be developed to survive the conditions that deep inside a gas giant.”
“Even at the bottom of oceans on Earth,” said a Senator seated across the room, “we find life. Could life on Jupiter adapt to that pressure?”
“Not life as we know it,” replied the administrator. “Even matter itself behaves strangely under those conditions. The atmosphere above the city is composed of hydrogen in a supercritical state, neither liquid nor gas. And the probe registered temperatures in excess of 60,000℉. The core itself appears to be solid, which was theorized for some time. But no one imagined anything like…this.” He gestured at the frozen image on the screen.
“Could we communicate with them?” a congressman asked. “Radio, maybe?”
“Sir, we don’t know if what we’re looking at is the Jovian equivalent of New York City or the Jovian equivalent of a coral reef. It looks like a city, but it may not be. If this is a civilization, we don’t know how or even if their technology could receive any kind of signal we can send.”
“If that’s a civilization,” said the President, “we’ve already sent a signal. Even to beings so different they can live in that kind of environment, the probe would still be recognized as something obviously artificial, made by intelligent creatures, wouldn’t it?”
“There’s no way to be certain, Madam President,” said the administrator.
“Send another probe.”
“Madam President, the cost–”
“You’ll have the money.” The President smiled. “And to think that jackass I’m running against just announced he’d cut NASA’s budget if he got elected.”