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For a story I have, there is a colony of aliens living on Pluto. Currently, they are living on a small area of it inside a large dome with a fake sun. They thrive in arctic conditions, and are approximately 2 inches tall, but very thin. They also have extreme technology such as warp engines, artificial intelligence, force fields, and lightsaber-like weapons. So I am wondering, with all this technology, isn't there a better way to make Pluto habitable? These aliens are also capable of flight for short distances, and can survive temperatures between approximately 90 degrees and −220° Fahrenheit. They are mostly carnivorous, but occasionally eat plants.

Note: Something may be possible in the way of nuclear fusion or fission, both of which they have harnessed, providing them with an almost limitless source of energy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Terra-forming isnt very efficient if the planet is frigid cold, they would rather make multiple large connected dome with fake sun as it would require less energy output than constantly heating the whole planet. Also some details about their home planet would be very helpful. $\endgroup$ – Chinu Aug 5 '16 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ «Currently, they are living on a small area of it inside a large dome with a fake sun» sound like Goodbye, Robinson Crusoe by John Varley. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 5 '16 at 11:18
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It is not just terra-forming that Pluto needs. What it really needs is World-Building!

First move the dome to someplace safe. A construction sight is no place for your people's only safe haven. Maybe turn it into a space station in orbit around your fake sun. You just need it out of the way.

Now gather up a bunch of oort cloud objects, (preferably ones that are made of heavier elements) and drop them down into Pluto's minor gravity well. Be careful with your angles so that pluto picks up orbital momentum with every collision. We're just trying to build up mass in this step, not hurl the planet sun-ward.

Once she is up to a reasonable, atmosphere capable body weight, use your advanced understanding of energy to draw the heat out of her now molten surface, giving her a solid crust. This far from the sun, radiation may not be a major problem, but if it is then you should use this time to get her newly molten core spinning to build up a magnetic field. Since you are the high-tech aliens, I will leave the details of how that is done to you, but I would guess that a couple of magnetic moons would do the job.

Now with your basic planet done, you can start pulverizing frozen gas asteroids near her surface to start constructing an atmosphere. Choose your gases carefully since you, your crops and your food animals all need to breath. You might also want to add some of whatever passes for oceans on your home world. We know it isn't water due to your preferred temperatures, but you must drink something, so make sure to lay in an adequate supply.

Finally, with your fake sun already shining above and a new meatier Pluto waiting below, you are ready to start terra-forming. Enjoy your brave new world!

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Since the sticking point is energy, they need to send some engineers to the Sun and do a bit of work to build a solar laser. Not the wimpy kind which uses electrical energy, but a stellar laser which uses the photosphere of the star as the lasing medium. This article gives the specifics of how to do so.

Of course there will still need to be some other work, for example a series of mirrors in solar orbit to ensure the beam is aimed at Pluto during its orbit around the sun (they can be almost anywhere in the solar system, and there will probably be a fair number of them handing off the beam as they orbit the sun), and most likely a focusing mirror or fresnel lens near Pluto to ensure the beam illuminates the planet without too much spillover.

With that, the planet will rapidly warm up, but now the aliens have another problem; much of the planet's frozen surface will rapidly melt or sublimate, and they will be floating (or possibly sinking below the waves).

Terraforming the entire planet will be expensive and possibly counterproductive, so perhaps they can scale down the solar laser and use mirrors to keep a series of domed enclosures warm instead.

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    $\begingroup$ Pluto has a nitrogen ice crust, which will melt rapidly and then turn to gas as the place warms up, but will gradually escape, since Pluto isn't massive enough to hold onto it. The mantle is only about 350km thick, but it's water ice, which will gradually melt, giving a world-wide ocean about 300km deep. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Aug 5 '16 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ @John Dallman However, remember that they thrive in conditions well below freezing, so as long as the temperature remains low enough, the water ice won't melt. $\endgroup$ – Billy S Aug 5 '16 at 13:10
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They have warp engines…

Open a warp (wormhole) from the sun to a point on Charon overhead.

If they don’t work that way, at least realize that the engines use so much energy that driving a lamp is not an issue.

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First, you're going to need a very big lens.

Pluto, being much farther from the sun than Earth, gets much less sunlight, and this is the first requirement to address. How much light does Pluto need? Let's start by assuming it needs as much sunlight as Mars, since there is some possibility that Mars could be terraformed.

Mars orbit is about 142 million miles in radius. Pluto's orbit is about 3.67 billion miles in radius, or about 26 times larger. Since light intensity falls off as the square of the distance, Pluto will need a lens about 670 times the diameter of Pluto to concentrate enough sunlight to get the equivalent of Martian light levels.

If that seems unpalatable, and you want to wave your hands a lot (keeping Clarke's Law firmly in mind), you can specify a series of artificial suns (much smaller than the real thing, of course) orbiting Pluto and keeping it warm. The problem with this is that, even though the artificial suns are much smaller than the real thing, they nonetheless put out a LOT of energy. As a rough number, you can start by looking at sunlight levels on earth, a total of about 174,000 terawatts. Pluto is about 1/5 the diameter of Earth, so it has 1/25th the area, and would need 1/25th the power, or about 7,000 TW. However, the artificial suns would lose at least half of their radiated energy to outer space, and actually something like 9/10 is a better guess, so the total power from the suns would need to be on the order of 70,000 TW. This is roughly the equivalent of an 18 MegaTon nuke every second, but with none of the radiation which a nuclear weapon produces. While the proportion varies a bit with bomb size, about 80% of the energy released by a nuke is gamma and soft x-ray radiation, neither of which is good for you. So even if you could filter out the harmful radiation produced by the suns, unless you could convert that harmful radiation to something useful, you'd need something like a 90 MegaTon nuke going off every second.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think the answer to this would be to create an artificial dense atmosphere, which would reflect a large amount of the energy from the suns into space. $\endgroup$ – Billy S Aug 5 '16 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ @BillyS - Atmospheres are very bad at reflecting gamma radiation and x-rays. Like pretty much useless. Please study a bit more on how things actually work. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Aug 5 '16 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ I know that. I just meant to reflect the sunlight, so that temperatures do not get too high and cause Pluto to melt, or start to kill off the aliens. For example, Earth reflects nearly 30% of the sunlight that hits it because of its atmosphere. So, if you have an extremely thick atmosphere, a lot of sunlight could be reflected. $\endgroup$ – Billy S Aug 5 '16 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @BillyS - Sigh. The sun puts out almost nothing in the way of xrays, and even less in gammas. So the atmosphere does not reflect xrays and it doesn't reflect gamma rays (although it will absorb some of them). When you said "I know that.", you demonstrated that you really don't. Once again, please study a bit more on how things actually work. You are apparently speaking from a position of combined ignorance and misunderstanding. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Aug 5 '16 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ I am not talking about xrays and gammas. $\endgroup$ – Billy S Aug 5 '16 at 15:43

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