Had another of my wandering brain thoughts when I was driving home today (lots of driving lately). What would it be like to encounter a planet from a distance that was shrouded my some kind of fog that you couldn’t get much of a reading on. One caveat is that you were tracking signals from the planet while coming toward it at less than light speed. In other words you were able to view the electronic radiation from the past of a civilization as you move toward it. The closer you get, the more current the data. Then a massive pulse of EMP and the history ends hundreds of years before you arrive.
The eerie silence as you near the planet is coupled with a planet covered in a dark cloud. Feeling worried, scans show large amounts of metal but little else. Then you are close enough to see that the cloud is not made of vapor or gasses but millions upon millions of satellites, which are all completely inert. No power emanates from the orbiting debris. Similarly, the planet that can be glimpsed through the satellites is completely without power, no signals reaching out to the void. Cities can be seen, some destroyed while others are intact but uninhabited.
The planet is all that remains of a civilization that advanced in technology too fast to handle or bear the costs associated with developing technologies. They learned the use of satellites but not how to leave the planet themselves. The ripped out the resources of their world and wasted it in space and on the ground. When they finally understood the peril they were in, instead of uniting, they turned on each other and wiped themselves out. Now all that is left is a lifeless planet surrounded by a cloud of lifeless junk. What a sad way to go. I was thinking this image would fit in well with a short story that has been rattling around in my head for some time. The hard part is achieving that tone of deep loss of potential, the unfortunate failure of imagination that lead to such an end. The title of the story I have tried to write before would be “Legacy of Hubris”. The path to the end would have been different but this may work better.