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With the Kuiper Belt being composed of well over 100 million objects - some grand, some insignificant - is it possible to hide an asteroid base from enemy sensors within its confines, combined with the vast distances of space?

Additional info:

  • The size for the base would be within an object with a 70 mile circumference. The current population stands at over 350,000.
  • Large ships would occasionally be coming and going from his base, smaller mining vessels somewhat more frequently.
  • The enemy searching for them has a deep-seated fear and loathing for true AI. They certainly have advanced computer systems, but nothing independent like an AI powered probe would ever be used.
  • The colony/base was established 70 years ago. Their enemy has been searching for them nearly as long.
  • The "seekers" are a multi-system ruling class. They're widespread both throughout the galaxy and our system, and have superior technology to the "hiders" - the seekers outpace the others by around 600 years. However, the hiders have certainly managed to glean a lot of their enemy's techniques and tech over the decades. The hiders do have fully-sentient (benevolent) AI systems to assist them in their quest for survival.
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    $\begingroup$ One does not look for Kuiper belt objects with probes. One looks for them with telescopes. The objects in the Kuiper belt are cold; how much power does the secret base radiate? (Note that 350,000 people must dissipate at least 35 MW all by themselves; any equipment they use is extra.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 5 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ Provided enough time every possible location of a hidden base could be visited and analyzed thoroughly implying the answer is no. But I suspect that's not what you have in mind. Can you be more specific about time permitted, since searching is essentially an effort over time activity? $\endgroup$ – dhinson919 Jan 5 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ There is no way the base could remain hidden for 70 years, even if the enemy only has observation and detection technology equal to what we have today. We already possess cameras able to scan the entire sky in a matter of days, using mostly every frequency in the spectrum, from infrared to visible light to ultraviolet and x-rays and so on, and the mathematical knowledge and technological resources to run comparisons algorithms between each scan in a matter of days as well to find objects that changed or moved between two pictures. And those algorithms are very far from being AIs. $\endgroup$ – Sava Jan 5 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ Also, out of curiosity, a 70 mile circumference = 1,560 square miles of surface area (the size of Rhode Island, population in 2017 of 1.06 million) and 5,792 cubic miles of volume - and yet there's a measly 350k people. What's in that thing? $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 5 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ Waste heat may not be a problem: if the rock is big enough, it can absorb the heat and be only negligibly heated. The reactor will have to be deep underground and avoid boiling stuff and cause unexpected cryovolcanism, though. Spacecraft traffic is another story, though. You will need to use Hydrogen Steamers or an equivalent. $\endgroup$ – Eth Jan 7 at 11:43
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Contrary to popular depiction in media and such, Kuiper Belt Objects, much like their counterparts in the Asteroid Belt, orbit the Sun alone, separated from their closest neighbours by vast distance full of nothingness.

An object with a 70 miles / 110 km circumference would be amongst the upper tier in terms of size. Not amongst the more massive, but already easily noticeable through telescopes. It is similar to Ultima Thule, for example.

Assuming that the enemy only uses space-based telescopes to watch the confines of the solar system, they'd need way too many probes to do the same, they only need to set up something akin to Seti@Home to analyse the vast amount of data from the telescopes and detect any movement within the system.

The software at the heart of Seti@Home that allows the distributed computing effort to take place has evolved to be used in many applications, and Seti@Home is now merely one component of this project called BOINC

Assuming technology roughly equivalent to what we have, in terms of propulsion systems and detection systems available, the base wouldn't stay hidden very long: the telescopes would be able to catch the heat emission of such a massive installation, 350.000 inhabitants is quite a big city, or the ships regularly coming and going towards an otherwise uninteresting asteroid.

And with government involvement in the effort to find the base, I'd give it a few weeks before results are analysed, compared and confirmed and a force sent out to seize or destroy the base in question.

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer brought a quote to mind: "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space." Douglas Adams $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 5 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ Well said. I appreciate the critical eye - I had a feeling I was severely overlooking some aspects. With all the above facts, is there any possible way for any ships/bases to remain hidden within the solar system? $\endgroup$ – Kabob Maraca Jan 5 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ A base would need to be completely self-sufficient, which requires a level of technology that we are far from having, and be able to hide it's heat emissions, which is very difficult but not impossible even today. A ship would need to be camouflaged to pass as an asteroid, which is quite hard, and mostly powered down as to not emit heat, thus it wouldn't be a nice to live. You can have dormant bases scattered all over the place inside asteroids and moonlets. Unlikely to be detected until activated, lifespan measured in days or weeks once switched on. $\endgroup$ – Sava Jan 5 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ If you want to hide within the Solar System, you either go far, like the Oort Cloud, or deep, ie hide within an official installation of the enemy. Hide your 'base' and population within a major population center, get your base in the Kuiper Belt known and registered by the enemy's government and act like normal citizens. If your asteroid base is known, no one will bat an eye if they detect heat emissions from your installation or if it gets resupplied regularly since it has an official existence. Of course, that opens other problems but they're outside the scope of the question you asked. $\endgroup$ – Sava Jan 5 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ You could try to hide on a gas giant moon - a Europa-analogue or Titan-analogue, say. Heat readings would be less anomalous (since they're not against open space) and a strong radiation belt might help mask your signals in the noise. It also helps your self-sufficiency goals. The problem of course is that somebody else will probably try to colonize that moon eventually... $\endgroup$ – Cadence Jan 6 at 16:49
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Is it possible to hide a base in the Kuiper Belt?

I believe so yes, but with certain provisos:

Since it is known that:

Scientists estimate that thousands of bodies more than 100 km (62 miles) in diameter travel around the sun within this belt.

And many with a diameter of 500Km and upwards.

The best thing would be to hide the base behind one.

  • The searchers would therefore only be searching from "Sunside" of the belt, as the base would be clearly visible from "Starside".

  • Station-keeping and collision-prevention systems would need to use cold driven mass-reaction, as would supply ships - to avoid an IR signature.

  • Supply ships would take a Burn-and-Glide roundabout route behind the objects of the belt so as to not give away position, they would need thermal shielding on Sunside, and a way to radiate excess heat on Starside.

  • Supply ships should not exceed the minimum directly detectable size of the hunter's telescopes. Today that would be 30 miles across by reflected light through Hubble (the smallest detected ever was a 1/2 mile diameter object, by the occultation method and lots of heavy maths). You might consider painting them with vantablack, for extra stealth.

Not essential, but as an added measure of protection a number of decoy dummy transceivers/IR sources could be set up around the orbit of the belt, with regular drone traffic dragging chaff and creating false coms and IR trails, just to keep 'em guessing which one is the real base. With the know-how and a little budget - it could be quite infuriating to the searchers.

Thanks to: notovny's comment, edit made.

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    $\begingroup$ An object in the outer solar system that's apparently tide-locked to the sun would be incredibly unusual. If casually noticed by an astronomical survey, it becomes Gunness-book-of-world-records-interesting ("Slowest-rotating object in the solar system") under current technology, and "Let's-go-take-a-look-at-it" interesting in a setting where the space faring technology is good enough to support cities in the Outer Dark. $\endgroup$ – notovny Jan 6 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ @notovny I see the flaw, hope you don't mind if I use your comment to improve my answer. $\endgroup$ – Don Qualm Jan 6 at 14:21
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Why they cannot find it? Stealth. The base has an advanced stealth mechanism to hide/reflect/absorb radiation, gets it not only very cold, but disperses radiation away from sun, looking like a very small object. Has onion-like shields to protect it, liquid hydrogen between the outermost, and any heat exhaust/traffic is done on the face back far from the sun o a pile-like structure.

It may orbit, and axis is pointing to the sun.

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One idea to hide within the solar system, since any object in the Kuiper Belt would be detected is a very low solar orbit. If such a base had sufficient heat shields and specifically engineered design to minimize its visible cross section it can orbit close to the suns corona. The overwhelming glare of the star would make it exceedingly difficult to detect. How ever, if the seekers are using every effort to search for the hiders, eventually they may look toward the sun to find a spec of a base that might be detectable with their technology, such as a spec being found in the vastness of the Kuiper Belt.

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