14
$\begingroup$

In my science fiction story,there is a phenomenon happening on the moon that looks like a red mist (or nebula, if you will). This mist can slowly move around, because it is controlled by an advanced alien civilisation. The nature of its sentience and movement is irrelevant here: my imagination can take good care of that,and I don't have to explain every detail in a sci-fi novel, for obvious reasons.

However, I have a chapter when an astronaut investigates the phenomenon, and an automated drone is sent to take samples. The astronaut will look at these samples, and will find what it consists of. So, for this "scene" it would be good if I had something specific: you know, particles of some sort, chemicals or anything that could be inside of this "mist" (it can also be similar to a cloud of sorts).

Note that at this point of story I don't want to give anything obvious like "this thing is alive, it is an alien! It has sapience!". At the time of the scene, scientists will already know that it is something caused by aliens, but not that it has any supernatural properties or IS an alien. So I need something fairly normal, like the astronaut finding out that "this thing has trace amounts of #1, but mainly consists of #2".

So here comes the real question: what kind of gasses/chemicals/whatever could cause such a phenomenon as a red nebula or mist (or something that could look similar)?

If it can't be red, feel free to suggest some other color.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Could the mist be made of nano technology instead? A massive swarm of tiny (simple) 'drones' that collectively can perform some function, but are individually a bit limited. That would provide a means for the aliens to control it, at the very least. Further, the sample could remain 'active' and be looking to rejoin the main collective, or to replicate to make a new swarm or whatever else. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2022 at 9:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RalphBolton That's an answer. Please add it as such, rather than a comment. You could note that the red hue is from any number of reasons to do with the nanites' construction (e.g. their composition, that they absorb light at frequencies other than red to convert it to energy (note: their absorption spectrum could provide hints to the environment they were intended to exist in; e.g. perhaps hinting at the type of star the around which it developed and/or atmosphere of planet; here is a graph of energy by frequency on/at Earth), etc.). $\endgroup$
    – Makyen
    Nov 22, 2022 at 16:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is a atmospheric phenomenon called Calima (in Spanish) that happens when dust from Sahara desert is brought by winds: es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calima_(meteorolog%C3%ADa)#/media/… $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2022 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphBolton Thanks for your comment,but nanomachines are litlle too "obvious" for my vision. I want Alien technology to be so advanced that humans will not know how to interpret it, and how it works. I want something that looked as if it didn't break any law of physics at first sight,but at the same time does not scream "This thing are tiny robots controlled by aliens" .Later, however, humans find out that their technology is so advanced that it looks like magic to us, despite our scientific knowledge. Before they learn about it, however, most of the Alien objects will look "fairly normal". $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Nov 23, 2022 at 22:25

6 Answers 6

4
$\begingroup$

Tholins

Tholins are organic compounds that are typically found on cold outer solar system bodies (e.g. they are responsible for the prominent red patches on the surface of Pluto, and snaky lines on Europa).

They are (no longer) found naturally on the Earth, as they would quickly react with oxygen, and I don’t think are found at all on the Moon (perhaps they would break down in the high temperatures of the lunar day). So the presence of tholins on the Moon would be both noted (because they would stand out against the grey coloration of the surface) and notable (because they shouldn’t exist for any length of time naturally).

Tholins can be found as aerosols on outer solar system bodies with an atmosphere. Again, being found in that form on the Moon, which effectively has no atmosphere, would imply some active process to maintain it.

Apparently the derivation of the name is from a Greek word meaning “hazy”, so that also fits with your narrative.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How long could it survive on the Lunar surface? Could it defend the moon from ultraviolet radiation or something similar? I like this idea, just asking. $\endgroup$
    – Mishima
    Nov 24, 2022 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ I’m not a chemist but suspect these molecules wouldn’t last long in the temperature and radiation extremes of the lunar environment. So their presence would likely be evidence of some active process to generate or protect them. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2022 at 0:13
21
$\begingroup$

Iron Dust

Mars has its reddish complexion due to iron oxide (rust) on its surface. If you had something to stir up rusty iron dust then it would look like a reddish cloud.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mars as well as many red sand sediments on Earth. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Nov 21, 2022 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ This has an advantage of the dust being widely available all over the planet... so the aliens can create red dust storms anywhere they want. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2022 at 10:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Joachim An advantage of iron is its ability to be manipulated magnetically. Alternatively, these could be extremely small nanobots, maybe a nanometer across. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2022 at 18:59
14
$\begingroup$

Blood.

blood

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acanthocyte

Your astronaut looks at the sample under a microscope. It looks like blood. In the simple lab that the astronaut has, the stuff breaks down as blood; lipids and organic molecules. It is apparently a mist of blood.

It is actually a self replicating organic nanobot. Regardless, the astronaut should not have touched it.

$\endgroup$
12
$\begingroup$

Garnet dust

enter image description here
source

This is a Teri dune complex in south east India, of which

[t]he soil is rich in ilmenite and the red colour is derived from haematite originating from garnet.

Garnets are silicate minerals, usually of a red hue (see its etymology).

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

Excited Neon Gas

In the presence of an electric field, neon gas glows red. Otherwise it is colourless and odourless.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Bromine

It's a red vapor in a fairly reasonable temperature/pressure range for a living organism, and is involved in organic processes, but is nasty to handle in it's elemental form. What more could you need?

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If the pressure is ideal for a living organism, how would it not instantly dissipate in the near-vacuum environs of the moon? Same goes for temperature. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2022 at 0:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @zevy The moon has no reason to have anything like red mist at all (including no wind to make a moving dust storm). I'd say the lack of dissipation would be easier to explain than the sentience. One easy explanation would be that the individual ions are charged and are drawn to an oppositely charged core in the middle. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2022 at 0:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .