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I was watching Star Wars the other day, when the scene came to that salt-covered planet, Crait.

I was wondering, would it be possible for a planet to have flats and mountains and other geological features covered in crystallized sugar instead of salt? If so, what sort of conditions/processes would form this sort of landscape the quickest?

(By crystallized sugar, I mean any sweet edible molecule in solid form)

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  • $\begingroup$ Related, if not even duplicate worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/92435/30492 $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Nov 3 '20 at 5:34
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    $\begingroup$ To be fair, with the red dust beneath, I thought it was a planet of red velvet cake. $\endgroup$ – James McLellan Nov 3 '20 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ The biggest obstacle you will face here is that salt can form naturally as a part of geological processes, while sugar cannot. Salt is very simple, made of 1 sodium atom and 1 chlorine atom, in any arrangement. Sugar is made of 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, and 11 oxygen atoms in a very particular arrangement. Sugar only forms as a result of biological processes, so you cannot have sugar unless some form of life created it. $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Nov 4 '20 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ @cowlinator actually sugar can form naturally but it can only build up on a planet without life to consume it. $\endgroup$ – John Mar 5 at 20:07
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So you need a natural process that makes simple sugars, and then creates a sugar syrup, and then dries that out to create crystals.

This is a bit of a stretch, but, here goes:

  • Start with a planet with only bees and tiny, flowering plants.
  • Bees produce honey from plants. (Honey is basically fructose, glucose and water)
  • These bees overproduce and stockpile (honey lasts practically forever - so this isn't wasteful). They basically cover a decent percentage of the planet with storage hives filled with honey.
  • Planet is subjected to intense heat (rogue star goes past?), killing everything with heat and fire, and evaporating the water from the honey, leaving a planet that's basically a sticky yellow goo under a powdered layer of dried honey.
  • Planet dries and wind blows everything around - covering the planet in fine, sweet, yellow powder.
  • Planet is hit by an ice asteroid, adding lots of heat and moisture. Planet is flooded with boiling water.
  • In the turmoil everything gets mixed around and shaken up.
  • As the water boils away, crystals are formed.
  • The water is removed from the planet by solar wind over the aeons, leaving a perfectly dry environment.
  • Wind scatters them around the planet.

Edit:

I didn't realise sugar exploded at high temperature (I knew it would if aerosolized, like everything does, I didn't realise it would if heated). So with that in mind:

  • The planet has a layer of heavy, unbreathable gas. Sulfur Hexafluoride, Radon, Carbon dioxide, etc. The nice environment with all the flowers and bees is up on highlands.
  • Over the milenia, storage hives get lost in accidents and weather, and roll down into the lowlands. This results in a huge store of honey in a sterile environment.
  • Heat pass still occurs, but the denser atmosphere of the lowlands keeps the temperature below 160 degrees, while the fertile highlands get burnt.
  • The passing star fractures some geology, releasing boiling water from deep in the crust as geysers which flood the low plains with boiling water.
  • As the water cools, sugar syrip is formed.
  • As the water evaporates, the sugars become crystalised.
  • Winds crack and spread the crystals around the lowlands of the planet.
  • Everything settles down over the following milenia. The planets magnetic core cools, and all the water vapour and special gases get bled off into space from solar wind.
  • If the air needs to be breathable in the lowlands, have the oxygen produced from geological processes, not plants. The less life on the planet the more plausible the sugar remains.
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    $\begingroup$ This isn't remotely reality-based, though that's not the tag. That said, powdered honey would explode, or decompose, rather than melt under planetary-level catastrophic events. Honey and sugar decompose at 186C, so anything that kills everything on the planet with heat and fire would destroy the sugar as well. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Nov 3 '20 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ @jdunlop I didn't know honey exploded. I have a gut feeling the melted powdered honey will still be suitable as an entry into the sugar syrup part of the recipe, but I unable to find anything about it via google. $\endgroup$ – Ash Nov 3 '20 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ if something burns (sugar and honey both burn well), then its powder can explode. There is a fun (but dangerous) trick you can do with a length of tube, a can, some flour, and a candle. That aside, the list as you describe would lead to caramelization and then decomposition (into carbon black) of sugars of any description. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Nov 3 '20 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I like this answer (yeah, yeah, yeah, dust explodes...) because it's a creative way to explain a nonsensical problem (who wants a planet coated in sugar, other than Willy Wonka, really?). One of the problems on this site is that users too often take it too seriously, believing that every answer should be science-based and forgetting that the whole point is to create rules for a fictional world. Ash took real-life and created a reasonable suspension-of-disbelief solution. Cheers, mate! +1 $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 3 '20 at 21:31

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