Quip Nebula: Temporal Setting

The game is set around 550 million years from the beginning of the universe in a time cosmologists call the star formation epoch. At this unique period in cosmological history, stars in existence are not those middle sized stars like our sun. Most stars grow up into super giants with lifespans of only millions of years.

As the star formation epoch is a period of star birth, it is also a time of violent cataclysms. Supergiant stars, thousands and even millions of time larger than our sun end their lives in immense explosions that dwarf anything thing scientists have been able to observe today.

This epoch of star activity came after a long period of darkness called the “dark ages.” This was the state of the universe before the first stars appeared. It is a period of complete darkness of about 200 to 300 million years. There were no light sources then as gases have yet to collapse and clump into one another to cause nuclear reactions.

How do stars form?

During the dark ages, the universe was extremely cold. The very low temperatures allowed hydrogen gas to freeze and clump together. As gas molecules stuck together, mass and gravity also increased and attracted more matter in the process. After millions of years of gravitational activity, small clumps of gases became massive gas giants or protostars.

As a protostar grow in size, its core gets heats up due to pressure until reaching a critical temperature that allows nuclear fusion to occur. The heat caused by nuclear activity is the “fire” that ignites these gas giants, giving birth to stars.

How do Stars die?

One type of the death of a star is among the most spectacular events in the universe.

Stars are not only burning nuclear furnaces, they are also cosmic forges that create the elements we know today. During the star formation epoch, element formation within stars happened at a rapid pace. This is because stars then were mostly super giants.

From the basic element hydrogen, which was predominant in that period, nuclear fusion made it possible to form other elements. Hydrogen atoms are smashed together in these nuclear furnaces to form helium. Once helium is formed, the fusion continues forming other elements like oxygen and magnesium.

The heat of fusion process radiates pressure out from the core countering the massive weight of the star preventing it to collapse into itself. At this moment, the star is in its “main sequence.”

After thousands of years of fusion and element creation, iron starts to form in the core signaling the star’s approaching death. Iron, unlike hydrogen or helium, takes more energy to fuse than it produces, thus it starts to accumulate inside the core. One can say that iron is the ash of a star’s nuclear furnace.

Eventually, as the iron core increases in size, the star also increases in size. It eventually reaches a critical point where the iron core cannot handle the weight of the star and collapses into itself. This event causes a shockwave that shakes the star apart in a violent, but spectacular explosion, called a supernova.

How does the universe look like then?

Because of the presence of gases and dust illuminated by starlight, space inside a nebula is not black, but surprisingly colorful and foggy. Light is scattered by gases and other particles making nebulae, one of the most colorful objects in the universe.

How does the game universe look like?

While we can’t recreate a nebula exactly, our goal is to create the ambiance of being there. Our goal is to include star formation, gaseous structures, pulsars and more in a believable “what if” experience.