Archive for October, 2015


Elite Dangerous: Sagittarius A*

 

This is it... The final jump...

This is it… The final jump…

This is it… The target of my journey is in sight, just one final jump away… It’s so close now but has felt so far in the past few days. The Elite Dangerous 1.4 update has been rolled out earlier in the week, temporarily wiping recent exploration records, in my case the Great Annihilator and some 60-odd neutron stars. Then, it turned out that in addition to those 3 days of lost records, the scans done after the update were not stored properly either, finally pushing Frontier Developments to call a temporary halt to exploration activities. With less than a thousand light years to go, it was a very unwelcome delay… But things got fixed at the weekend, my old scans are back up, and in the worse case scenario i’ve only lost some 400 light-years of data, with pretty much nothing of note. With things back to normal, i got to cross the little distance left to my destination, and watch the countdown to the hyperspace jump. 4… 3… 2… 1…

Sagittarius A*, with the galactic plane as a backdrop for pretty lensing effect.

Sagittarius A*, with the galactic plane as a backdrop for pretty lensing effect.

And here i am, facing the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The gravitational lensing is impressive and i spent ages playing with it, using the galactic plane as a backdrop while thinking about my departure, almost two months ago. It’s been a while, and i look at the current numbers on my ship’s records: 1770 systems explored so far, of which about 100 were before i left civilisation, 1874 hyperspace jumps, 25843 light-years away from my starting system.

My statistics on arrival. I had about 100 systems visited before this trip.

My statistics on arrival. I had about 100 systems visited before this trip.

I navigate a bit more around the black hole, and to my horror, a sinister eye appears inside and a giant mouth opens up to devour me. My psychiatrist back in Lave won’t ever believe me, but I KNOW WHAT I SAW! I’M NOT MAD! IT WAS TRYING TO EAT ME!

OMG! It's trying to eat me! Boost away!

OMG! It’s trying to eat me! Boost away!

After that narrow escape, i try to settle my nerves with a gentle hypercruise towards “Source 2”, the big blue companion star in the system, scooping up some fuel and tinning up a jar of it for memories.

Source 2, the big blue star companion of the black hole. Also: the petrol station at the centre of the galaxy.

Source 2, the big blue star companion of the black hole. Also: the petrol station at the centre of the galaxy.

And so, this is it. I’ve been there. I made it… Oh, it’s not over and i’ve still got to make it back to sell my scans, and discover some more sights on the way, but hey, no matter what happens now, it’s ok, because i’ve been there. And aboard my trusty Cobra Mk. III, the “I’m Only Doing This So You Don’t Have To”.

It feels like the end of a pilgrimage, and i find myself looking back while powering away. It’s not looking at me anymore… i think… and maybe it was just a big misunderstanding, who knows… Fare thee well Sagittarius A*, i may be back, some day, but it probably won’t be for a while…

Saying goodbye...

Saying goodbye…

 

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Final jump to the Great Annihilator system.

Final jump to the Great Annihilator system.

I finally reached my penultimate target: the Great Annihilator system. The GA system works as a handy as a nav beacon towards Sagittarius A*, being about 3k light-years away, which really feels like a tiny distance after making it so far.

After that final jump, the empty view in the cockpit has that typical neutron star/black hole feel, but soon enough the Great Annihilator black hole is visible through the optical distortion it causes. As the scanner got hold of it, it labeled it as Great Annihilator A, meaning that it was at least a binary system. A full system scan later, I found out that the binary companion was another black hole: Great Annihilator B.

Sadly but predictably, the source isn’t particularly impressive. Once you’ve seen your first black hole in the game, you’ve pretty much seen them all. So unless you’ve got a pretty nebula as a background to play with, it’s a bit of an underwhelming sight.

Great Annihilator A, one of a binary black holes system.

Great Annihilator A, one of a binary black holes system.

The second source was quite far away, but having made it that far, and in a system with such a cool name, I couldn’t leave without visiting it too, aligning it onto the galactic plane in an attempt to make it slightly more interesting in the picture book.

Great Annihilator B, the binary companion.

Great Annihilator B, the binary companion.

And so I’m off, onto my final stretch. It looks like it’s going to be fast as I seem to be out of the dense blue and neutron star cluster, so the navigation should be close to a straight line.

Transluscent rings in the dense star fields of the core.

Transluscent rings in the dense star fields of the core.

Over a week of travel since the last entry now, and I finally reached the galactic core. The star density is noticeably higher, with some large clusters of bright blue stars among other things. I’ve been making my way there fast-ish, only stopping for blue worlds (water worlds and Earth-like worlds), or for ringed gas-giant sightseeing here and there. Another undiscovered Earth-like was scanned on the way, making it four so far.

Then, while using the galactic map to plan an evening’s trip in the OGAIRY sector, I found a tiny blue planetary nebula, with a black hole at its centre. The course was plotted, and a couple dozen jumps later, the nebula was in sight: an incongruous bright blue cloud in the dotted black sky.

A blue planetary nebula in the distance.

A blue planetary nebula in the distance.

The view from inside was extremely pretty, the dreamlike blue making it a nice change from the red nebulas I visited so far.

Inside the planetary nebula of the OGAIRY sector.

Inside the planetary nebula of the OGAIRY sector.

And at the centre of it, I got close enough to the small black hole to play with the gravitational lensing to capture some photographic memories. I was dropped out of supercruise when getting too close, but without damage thanks to the low speed, and there’s not much more danger than that due to the invisible wall that prevents you from going too far. Temperature is pretty much the only thing that can kill you while exploring, and small black holes like this one don’t cause much heating.

The black hole at the centre of the nebula.

The black hole at the centre of the nebula.

What *does* cause heating however are stars that you get too close to. This was the case of a close binary pair when a jump had me pop out just in-between. The companion star wheezed by my canopy as I made entry and stopped in front of the main star, and straight away I could see the ship temperature rising fast, too fast. Taking a quick vector out between the two, I managed to get out quickly without incurring any damage to the equipment, with a maximum temparature level of 89%. That’s a reminder that even though exploration in Elite is a fairly peaceful and straightforward affair, a small lapse of concentration can be deadly when fooling around stars. I got lucky there since I was watching everything and reacted instantly, but had I been watching something else, a few more seconds would have been enough to start frying up the equipment.

This binary system caught me by surprise: the jump had me out between the pair and quickly overheating.

This binary system caught me by surprise: the jump had me out between the pair and quickly overheating.

I’ve since been following a trail of neutron stars with occasional black holes, and my scans, to which a fifth undiscovered Earth-like world was added, should now be worth something when (if?) I make it back. I’m now into the core proper, and less than a thousand light-years away from the Great Annihilator which is my last planned target before Sagittarius A* itself.