You are a member of an alien species, uncomparable to most living things on Earth, and living on an arid planet, around country sized oases. During your version of the 1800's your star catches the rogue planet Earth and its moon with it. This icy desolate planet arrived after being pulled out of it's system by another star that went through the outer regions of the heliosphere of the Sun. It's arrival doesn't interrupt your star system, the most it causes are colder winters and warmer summers and marvelous meteor showers. You live in a time period similar to that of our post WW2 era, and your species has studied the orbit and properties of this planet, mostly neglecting the moon for not having anything outstanding. Getting to it will be tricky, because it's new orbit is highly elliptic, with an inclination between 45° and 50°, and the planet's surface completely freezes when reaching its apoapsis. When approaching periapsis, Earth rapidly heats up and spews it's frozen atmosphere into space like a comet until reaching it, so you have a very short amount of time to reach it in one piece, then come back... in one piece.

Earth is in the neighborhood of this alien planet. The star system, with every planet at it's periapsis (not to scale):

Star - small planet - gas dwarf with moon - dwarf planet - Alien planet - Earth with Moon - gas giant - rocky planet - ice giant.

Most of the other planets have almost circular orbits and less inclination than 10°.

But why would you go there?

Because astronomers of your kind discovered a global infrastructure on the temperamental planet, buried under (now melting and refreezing) ice, that must have been constructed by a civilization. And with a civilization comes resources and research. Your species sets a common, non obligatory goal, that is to analyse the solar intruder closer, and help sustain ourselves further with these discoveries and resources gathered from it.

The question is: What could they learn of us from the remnants that have been eroding since Earth's arrival?

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    $\begingroup$ (a) One of this Stack's close-the-question reasons is "Needs Focus: This question currently includes multiple questions in one. It should focus on one problem only." (b) You've not described how the Earth got to this system, so it's anybody's guess what would survive the trip. (c) Your 2nd and 3rd bullets are lists. The 3rd bullet is a LONG list and more easily answered, "what do you want them to learn about us?" While we permit list-answer questions, you should try to avoid them. Stack Exchange's model is one-specific-question/one-best-answer. How will you choose a best answer? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ BTW: When you say "apoastron" and "periastron" I'm 99.9% sure you mean "apehelion" and "perihelion." $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ @JHB link "apehelion" and "perihelion" are used to describe apsies regarding bodies in the Solar System. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ You're reading that Wiki page a hair too literally. The words describe the closest point and the furthest point of any body in any solar system. The apsis of a single orbiting body are unique, but the concept of apsis and the descriptors aren't. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ If humans were still on it they'd send it back. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


Probably too simple an answer here, but you wouldn't send people.

You'd do the same as our own first steps and send in the machines. It would take a few decades to create the machine (much like we did), but probes can be sent with cameras, sensors, and radios in order to photograph and research likely locations.

And then more probes that are capable of cross-surface movement and better optics.

If you really want to send people, you're going to have to spend a lot of time up front and learning about the environment first.

It's going to take a long time. We've not even sent people to Mars yet, and that's our easiest target beyond the Moon - you can't expect this civilisation to exceed that progression.

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    $\begingroup$ Venus gets closer than Mars, but Mars is obviously the more desirable target under most circumstances. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reminder- edited. $\endgroup$
    – user80989
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 19:18

The short answer is they wouldn't. 1800's technology simply isn't advanced enough to do so. They may be able to send observation satellites and view it in various light spectra, but they wouldn't learn anything about our technology unless Earth stuck around for longer.

If Earth did stick around long enough though, they would likely send multiple satellites around the planet to study it in detail. They wouldn't send people to a world so far away, much less a planet with a limited lifespan and such a variable climate, But they may send drones and observe the planet in closer detail sooner than we ever have to extraplanetary destinations, due to having much more interest in doing so. I would imagine this would cause a huge spur in technological progress as everyone tries to get more information out of the planet. However this would NOT be caused by discovering technology ON Earth.

Even after landing and recovering objects, they'd still struggle to get any technology from it, due to most of our technology not lasting so long, but they may be able to recover surviving recordings if humanity created sturdy ones after they realized they were doomed. What they learn from those is totally up to you, as its based on what humanity decides to record, which you can decide in this situation.


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