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I read this book in the late 90s, and I suspect it may have been old-ish then. Male author, I believe, with fairly hard science writing.

Earth discovers a world leaving the Milky Way which interests them for some reason(the planet is a high-tech remnant of an earlier civilization). Limit of human technology means humans can just get there now, but not in the future as it will be out of range. Humans arrive and find that 2 million years prior another species, slightly less advanced than the humans, had also landed and explored the planet.

There may have been an artist in the human expedition. The original alien species may have departed into a parallel universe with "reverse" entropy, a route no longer available due to the current age of the Universe. I think this was by a well-known author and that I may have had a stroke, because I can't remember him or the name of the book.

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    There's a few similarities with Chindi by Jack McDevitt (artist in the expedition, problematic spacecraft vectors that mean "go now or never", arrive to find base camp of previous alien civ), but it was first published in 2002. Re seeming old-ish - McDevitt's prose style could account for that. Commented May 16 at 7:57
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    I think this is The Eternity Artefact - goodreads.com/en/book/show/116117
    – andrewsi
    Commented May 16 at 9:29
  • @andrewsi Are you going to post that as an answer so we can upvote it? Commented May 16 at 14:02
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    I can't help feeling it would have been polite to wait until you were sure andrewsi was not going to post an answer before turning his comment into an answer. Commented May 16 at 15:38
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    Two hours seemed like enough of a grace period.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 16 at 20:35

3 Answers 3

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andrewsi made an answer via comment that I am expanding here.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr's The Eternity Artifact is a match on at least a few points.

5,000 years in the future, humankind has spread across thousands of worlds, and more than a dozen different governments exist in an uneasy truce. But human beings have found no signs of other life anywhere approaching human intelligence.

This changes when scientists discover a sunless planet they name Danann, travelling the void just beyond the edge of the Galaxy at such a high speed that it cannot be natural. Its continents and oceans have been sculpted and shaped, with but a single megaplex upon it--close to perfectly preserved--with tens of thousands of near-identical metallic-silver-blue towers set along curved canals. Yet Danann has been abandoned for so long that even the atmosphere has frozen solid. Within a few years Danann will approach an area of singularities that will make exploration and investigation impossible.

Orbital shuttle pilot Jiendra Chang, artist Chendor Barna, and history professor Liam Fitzhugh are recruited by the Comity government and its Deep Space Service, along with scores of other experts as part of an unprecedented and unique expedition to unravel Danann's secrets. And there are forces that will stop at nothing to prevent them, even if it means interstellar war.

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  • I'm almost certain this is the right one. I'll do a check, wait the customary 24 and then, assuming we're both right, accept this as my answer. Thanks, BTW; I've been itching to re-read this.
    – JohnHunt
    Commented May 17 at 7:04
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At least the start of this question sounds like Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds.

2057, Bella Lind and the crew of her nuclear-powered ship, the Rockhopper, push ice. They mine comets. But when Janus, one of Saturn's ice moons, inexplicably leaves its natural orbit and heads out of the solar system at high speed, Bella is ordered to shadow it for the few vital days before it falls forever out of reach.

In accepting this mission she sets her ship and her crew on a collision course with destiny—for Janus has many surprises in store, and not all of them are welcome...

A moon suddenly accelerating out of its orbit and leaving the solar system certainly seems like something a higher tech civilization might have left behind. And there is a borrow window of opportunity for the ice-miner to follow it.

However nothing from the second half of the question, regarding reverse entropy or an artist character matches my recollection of the book.

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Robert Reed's Marrow (Published in 2000, so not quite late 90's but close enough to be confused with it almost 25 years later?) and other books in the setting (The Great Ship universe) features an unpopulated artificial Jupiter-sized object entering the galaxy from an empty region of the universe at a third the speed of light. Human explorers are just barely able to intercept and land on it and end up gaining control of the ship, selling living space on it to anybody who can afford it, including to alien species. Finding out who created it and why, and who or what used to live on it is a big mystery the book and sequels explore.

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