Death 999 wrote:The lander can very quickly drill down and fetch them. But its specialized extraction system doesn't work on anything that isn't pure.
"Degenerate matter" doesn't sound particularly pure to me.
Names can be deceiving. Especially when the name is based of a rather long chain of tenuous relationships to earlier concepts.
In this case, let's examine 'degeneracy'. Let's think about orbits. You can have all sorts of orbits. Elliptical, circular, inclined, etc. Some of these orbits are so closely related that once you've solved one of them, the others are basically the same. You've covered them already. Like, same orbit but a few seconds later. That's basically the same. Such orbits are considered 'degenerate'.
Now, in quantum mechanics, you often find symmetric systems. There'll be a ground state and some excited states. And some of these may be mirror copies of each other. These states, too, are considered degenerate. It is in quantum mechanics that the study of degenerate states and splitting them apart, 'lifting the degeneracy', became important.
In particular there can be something called a degenerate Bose Gas, better known as a Bose-Einstein Condensate; here, it is not multiple states with the same energy, but multiple particles occupying the same state. This requires things to be extremely cold. Also, they have to be Bosons to do that. If they were the other kind of particle, Fermions, they wouldn't be able to do that. Fermions can't be in the same state as each other.
But when physicists began considering extremely cold systems, they also looked at Fermions. And since BECs were Degenerate Bose Gases, they called this system degenerate as well, even though
there were not necessarily any
degenerate states. Also, these could form at high temperature if the pressure was high enough.
Anyway, the degenerate matter in question would be sort of halfway to neutronium. A slush of protons and electrons packed so tightly that it isn't really accurate to say that any one of the protons is in any particular location. This is the stuff that white dwarf stars and the cores of the largest gas giants are made of. It's not clear that it would ever be stable at low pressure, so one can consider this in the same general category as finding bulk antimatter on the surface.