Most gamers I know were simply astonished at the beauty and awesome visuals when playing through the climactic Almighty level near the end of Destiny 2. However, on my first time through it, my inner Sith Lord revealed itself. While my fireteam was focused on defeating the Almighty and stopping the Red Legion, I was focused on something else: How does it work?
Minor spoilers for the main campaign of Destiny 2 follow.
While the ability to destroy a planet might be insignificant next to the power of the Force, the ability to destroy an entire star is something quite unique – and the Red Legion appears to be very experienced in their craft. Exploring the Almighty as best as I could while taking fire, I developed a hypothesis as to just how the machine performs its apocalyptic task.
Before I get too far into this, please note that I am not a professional astronomer, physicist, or chemist. I’m simply a lover of science and have tried my best to match up real scientific principles as I understand them with the fantasies of science fiction. I could be incorrect in my understanding, so please don’t hold me responsible for any failures in your DIY star killer.
What Destiny 2 Tells Us
While on board the Almighty, there are several clues we can see to help us figure out what’s going on. First, we see millions of chunks of rocks being processed by the ship. Ghost later narrates that the Almighty is consuming Mercury (RIP the Lighthouse), and these rocks are presumably pieces of the planet.
Second, we can see a bright laser beam going from the Almighty to the Sun. We can accurately observe that the beam is going from the ship to the Sun (and not vice versa) by watching the flow of the beam, which is especially visible when it cycles back up and strengthens the beam.
One crucial clue to the Almighty’s inner-workings is again narrated by Ghost when you’re near this part of the machine, as he says: “We have to disrupt the electron reservoir!” Presumably, this beam is blasting the sun with electrons.
Lastly, observe the color of the Sun as it’s being pummeled by the Almighty’s stream of electrons. You’ll notice that the Sun is blackening where the beam is hitting it, and is spreading and swirling across the sun.
In short, the Almighty is consuming Mercury to power an electron beam that’s turning the Sun black. But, what is it actually doing?
A Mass of Incandescent Gas
Before we can answer that question, we need to first understand what makes the Sun work.
The Sun is primarily made up of hydrogen atoms consisting of one proton and one electron. Through a process known as the “Proton-Proton-Chain” reaction, the protons of these hydrogen atoms are smashed together into various isotopes until forming a helium atom consisting and giving off positrons and neutrinos. The positrons will collide with electrons and annihilate, producing photons (visible light!) and energy in the form of gamma rays.
In other words, nuclear fusion!
But, if the Almighty is flooding the Sun with extra electrons, wouldn’t that just add additional fuel for positrons to annihilate into energy and light?
I would argue no, due to the density of the sun. It can take thousands and thousands of years for a single particle to escape from the core of the sun to the corona and into space. Even with the Red Legion’s advanced technology, I don’t think it would be likely that they would be able to penetrate that deeply into the sun. It would be like trying to drill into the core of an avocado with a spoon.
The Almighty’s Deadly Weapon Revealed
So, how is the Almighty destroying the sun with its electron beam? Three words: electron degeneracy pressure.
As stated earlier, your typical hydrogen atom consists of a single proton and electron. A proton carries a positive charge and an electron has a negative charge, balancing each other out. But, in the right circumstances, a hydrogen atom can be coerced into acquiring an additional electron and gaining a negative charge. A hydrogen atom with an extra electron is referred to as a hydrogen anion, or hydride. Hydrogen anions are fairly unstable, as the electrons will be looking for any excuse to fall off and return the atom to its neutral state.
Hydride exists in the Sun today beneath the layer known as the photosphere. This causes layers below the photosphere to appear opaque, as the hydride absorbs and scatters photons trying to escape the core of the sun.
As the Red Legion add a steady stream of electrons into the sun, they are converting the sun’s hydrogen into hydride. This is visible in the game as the dark areas on the surface of the sun, where the hydride is absorbing and scattering the light of the Sun.
Darkening the Sun would have serious consequences for life on earth, but due to the instability of hydride, as soon as the Almighty’s electron beam switches off or is destroyed, the atoms in the Sun would return to a more neutral state. This is certainly not enough to destroy the Sun.
This is where electron degeneracy pressure comes in. In physics, degenerate matter is free, non-interacting particles with pressure. A mass of free-floating electron particles is one such example of degenerate matter.
As the electrons are pumped into the Sun, they change the mass of the star and exert pressure on the lower layers. The Sun’s core exerts a certain amount of pressure that keeps the core from collapsing on itself. The pressure of the additional mass of electrons along with the additional particles that they trap beneath the sun would eventually cause the Sun to collapse under its own weight.
It’s All In The Details
While this hypothesis may or may not be true, for me it just demonstrates the remarkable amount of care the Bungie team have put into Destiny 2. While the first Destiny did have a story and lore, most of it was buried menus and the Grimoire.
Here in Destiny 2, Bungie has taken the same amazing effort decided to put it on full display for all to see. The fact that somebody at Bungie took the time to craft a super weapon and leave clues throughout the level about its operation shows the attention to detail that Bungie has devoted to making the worlds of Destiny 2 as vibrant, rich, and alive as possible.
And I want more.