For story reasons I need a situation with a planet around red dwarf, which already has had the equivalent of a Great Oxygenation Event. Simultaneously I also like the planet to be mostly without accessible fossil fuels.

In order to avoid a situation where algae produced oxygen from carbon dioxide, the carbon has magically disappeared. The most reasonable explanation, is that there are indeed fossil fuels but on the dark side, under a few kilometers of ice.

So far not bad. The tricky part starts how to explain such process.

  • Tectonic drift seems to slow.
  • Direct hit of some properly big object should rather sterilize whole planet.

The best idea that I can think is a result of some gravitational interaction (like in Nice model), which first put the planet on elliptical and no longer synchronous orbit, and when it become back synchronous and circular back the opposite side become light.

1) Would such process be realistic?

2) How long should it be? (a thousand years? million years?)

3) Should it also be great extinction event?

4) Which features should I include to make the rest of setting compatible (except from glacier shaped terrain?)

  • $\begingroup$ To clarify: ALL carbon is missing from half the planet? So NO organic life forms exist there? $\endgroup$
    – Weckar E.
    May 1, 2017 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @WeckarE. Could still be silicone based life, right? $\endgroup$
    – FreeElk
    May 1, 2017 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeElk I assume you mean Silicon, not Silicone? Perhaps. But it makes a difference to the answer. Silicon based life being theoretical and all. $\endgroup$
    – Weckar E.
    May 1, 2017 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ @WeckarE. HAHA...oops...yeah, Silicon. You're right though, definitely beyond the scope of WB to use theoretical ideas :P but yeah, it would make a difference to the answers. Just trying to put it out there as a possibiility. $\endgroup$
    – FreeElk
    May 1, 2017 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ Your question says that the planet has a dark side, but you do not specify that the planet is tidally locked. Is it? $\endgroup$ May 1, 2017 at 14:43

3 Answers 3


The simplest way of achieving inaccessible fossil fuels would be to arrange the geological history of red dwarf planet so that the strata of its equivalent of the Carboniferous Era remained buried deep underground.

The Carboniferous Epoch of planet Earth produced the majority of our coal and oil. If those strata were inaccessible, then we wouldn't be able to access or use fossil fuels.

Possibly tectonic processes such as continental drift with its attendant recycling of geological material was either running slowly compared to the Earth's or had come to a halt.

This geological solution avoids the necessity of requiring some form of astronomical catastrophe to happen. The other problem with astronomical catastrophes is they aren't likely to achieve the carbon disappearing act you want to achieve.


The following diagram may be useful

[Carbon dioxide pressure-temperature phase diagram So, given a reasonable time, and reasonable pressure, I can imagine that carbon dioxide would precipitate out of the atmosphere on the dark side of a tidally locked planet. So it's possibly realistic. Being a global phenomenon, it will take a long time - longer than a million years - and it will tail off - there will always be some residual carbon dioxide / other carbon in the atmosphere, but I am guessing you are happy enough with the vast majority of..

Burying it under several km of water ice is more tricky, as I would have thought that whatever mechanism you use to precipitate the CO2 from the atmosphere will do exactly the same as all the water, which precipitates at a far reduced temperature and pressure. So it's far more likely that the water ice is buried under the CO2 rather than the other way around.

The others are up to you, and wouldn't be necessary / have much impact.


The only way to reverse the spin on a planet sized object is to have something big and/or fast hit it on the side. If you figure it correctly, you could have a small but fast meteor deflect of the side of the planet at an extremely obtuse angle so that it starts turning the planet, but nuclear winter will only occur on one side of the planet. This is probably very unlikely, but it could happen.


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