Bok globules are cold, dark, opaque clouds of interstellar dust. Most Bok globules about a light-year in length. They are some of the coldest known places in the universe. They are usually composed of helium, hydrogen, carbon oxides, and trace amounts of silicates.
Despite the cold, Bok globules are common birthing places for new stars, especially binary or trinary systems. In cases where more than one star is contained within the globule, they are often of varying ages, suggesting that star creation there is a slow, ongoing process. The dark cloud can often hide the newborn star(s) within it's opaque layers, making the new stars very difficult to notice from certain angles or distances. These new stars mean that while the outer regions of the globules are extremely cold, they may have surprisingly warm centers.
Sometimes nearby stars will blast Bok globules with radiation, flares, or a coronal mass ejection. When this happens, the globules may fragment or develop a tail like a comet. These are then known as cometary globules.
Bok globules were first discovered in the 1940s by a researcher named Bart Bok.
Game and Story Use
- A space station, pirate base, rogue planet, or invasion fleet could be hidden within a Bok globule. The dark cloud functions much like natural stealth technology, keeping this location hidden from the rest of the galaxy.
- It may also function as something of a space moat. There may only be one or two navigable paths into our out of the dense clouds that surround the system. The clouds may just be gas, but that'll still wreck a ship that tries to punch through them at relativistic speeds .
- Bok globules could turn out to be intentionally crafted stellar megastructure cloaking devices. A very secretive race may have built them to hide themselves from other civilizations.
- A scientific mission or station could be set up near a Bok globule to closely observe the formation of new stars. They'd need specialized scanning equipment to penetrate the dense clouds of gas. This is a good place for the remote installation where something goes terribly wrong and the PCs have to investigate.
- A rogue comet emerges from a Bok globule and seems to be on a collision course with someplace important. But this is no ordinary comet - it's a cloud of frozen gases surrounding an ancient spaceship that drifted through the globule accumulating layers of frost. What happens if it thaws?
- Alien life evolving within the a Bok nebula would likely be capable of surviving extreme temperatures. Since the clouds are opaque, these creatures may be eyeless, blind, and/or albino like deep-cave lifeforms. Rather than being planet-bound, as planets are unlikely to form in the globule, they may "swim" in the "sea" of the extremely dense gas (or "burrow" in the "wet mud" of the extremely dense gas). So this might be a good place to find space whales.
- A globule with star(s) inside it could function as a Lost World, millions or billions of years behind the evolutionary patterns of other nearby worlds. In this version, the life is on a young planet within a pocket or bubble that houses the star deep inside the globule. Very primitive life exists here… from space dinosaurs to space amoebas.
- A civilisation advanced enough to make the detour could probably extract plenty of useful raw materials from one of these.