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Vernor Vinge


A Deepness in the Sky
Year 1999
Publisher Tor
ISBN 0312856830



Thirty thousand years before the events of A Fire upon the Deep, Pham Nuwen is living in anonymity among the Qeng Ho interstellar trading fleet.  In high orbit above the planet Arachna, they wait for the awakening of its dormant population, the Spiders, who have burrowed deep into the planet, awaiting the relighting of the On/Off star their planet orbits.  For when light returns, Arachna will at long last explode into a Golden Age of technology and commerce.

But the slumbering Spider's vulnerability has attracted another lurking presence - the Emergents, a band of traders whose plans for Arachna are more sinister than anything the Qeng Ho could envision.

Reluctant to share their spoils with the Qeng Ho, the Emergents unleash an attack unlike any seen in the Qeng Ho's millennia-long history of exploration, reducing their fleet to serfdom ... and then to something far worse.

Reaching into memories so old and painful he can barely recall them, Pham gathers the other "survivors" about him and makes a final attempt to be worthy of a reputation as ancient and storied as the history of the Qeng Ho itself.  But time is running out, for soon the Emergents' assault will strip Arachna bare.

As Pham's underground resistance cell struggles against its torturers in space, a wondrously gifted clan of Spiders on the planet below fights another battle - to advance their technology quickly enough to defeat their terrestrial foes, and somehow overcome the invisible enemy lurking above.




Winner of the Hugo Award

'Vernor Vinge has done it again.  A Deepness in the Sky is vivid, suspenseful, [and] realistic.  Vernor Vinge's villains are chillingly believable, and so is his vision of a hopeful tomorrow.'
David Brin

'Vernor Vinge's latest novel is a triumph, continuing the most visionary, intelligent deep-space adventure of our time.  Reason to cheer, indeed - and a great, long read it is.'
Gregory Benford



Spitzer image of planetary nebula



Credit: NASA

Ring of Stellar Death
This false-color image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a dying star (center) surrounded by a cloud of glowing gas and dust. Thanks to Spitzer's dust-piercing infrared eyes, the new image also highlights a never-before-seen feature -- a giant ring of material slightly offset from the cloud's core (red). This clumpy ring consists of material that was expelled from the aging star.

The star and its cloud halo constitute a "planetary nebula" called NGC 246. When a star like our own Sun begins to run out of fuel, its core shrinks and heats up, boiling off the star's outer layers. Leftover material shoots outward, expanding in shells around the star. This ejected material is then bombarded with ultraviolet light from the central star's fiery surface, producing huge, glowing clouds -- planetary nebulas -- that look like giant jellyfish in space.

In this image from December 6, 2003, the expelled gases appear green, and the ring of expelled material appears red. Astronomers believe the ring is likely made of hydrogen molecules that were ejected from the star in the form of atoms, then cooled to make hydrogen pairs. The new data will help explain how planetary nebulas take shape, and how they nourish future generations of stars.

NASA Image of the day archive





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