Hello, dear friends, gentle readers, and curious onlookers. It is time once again for a look under the hood of the setting I am preparing for this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. I have chosen to attempt a space opera style science fiction novel this year and in this blog series I am laying out some of the details of the setting I am building. The other posts of this series all have the Project 15 tag.
In the previous post I laid out the circumstances under which 5 colony ships, arks made of hollowed asteroids, were constructed and sent into the vast reaches of space. In this post I will explain a little about where I decided to send them.
Selection of Stars
I could have sent my arks anywhere, really; but, I decided to give my setting a semblance of verisimilitude. Therefore, I had to find some likely candidate stars within a reasonable distance from Sol System. I knew that just picking a handful easily recognizable stars wasn’t going to do the trick. For one thing, it would be lazy. For another, I’d heard the occasional report concerning the discovery of Earth-like habitable worlds now and then; so, I figured there had to be a few I could use for my purposes.
A quick application of google-fu led me to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. The good news there were a fair number of planets already identified as potentially habitable. The bad news is that only a few of these looked even remotely earth-like. I had to narrow the field down to a few that had a chance for near earth level gravity, temperature ranges, orbital period, and atmospheric content. Most are too large, which could possibly mean unbearable gravity, unless they were considerably less dense. If they are less dense, then that could mean a severe lack of metals in the crust, or even the lack of a metallic core, and thus no protective magnetic field.
I finally settled on a handful that, with a little authorial license, could conceivably fit the bill. The first one I liked was Tau Ceti E. This beauty is only 12 ly from Sol. It is a little larger than Mother Earth, as are just about all the others in the list, and has an orbital period of ~168 days, or about half a Terran year. Lucky me, I did get to use at least one relatively recognizable star system in my list.
Next on my list was a system named Gliese 667. This is a fascinating trinary star system 24 ly from Sol in the constellation of Scorpio. The third star in this triad, Gliese 667C, has six confirmed planets, three of which are potentially habitable. It is a wonderfully exotic system.
During my investigations I got to thinking about extraterrestrial life and such and remembered that the UFO community often refer to a race of aliens called the Zeta Reticulans. I looked into this system as a candidate for my arks and learned that it unfortunately does not have any planets in orbit. There is, however, a system nearby that fits the bill. That system has the designation, HD 40307. It is in the southern portion of the night sky near the constellation Pictor, the Easel. It is an orange-ish star with several planets in orbit. The sixth one is squarely in the habitable zone and has an orbital period of almost 200 days. That should provide for some nice recognizable seasons.
The fourth system on my list sits in the constellation Leo. It is a red dwarf with the somewhat unwieldy designation of EPIC 201367065. At 147 ly it is quite a bit further than the other systems in this list. However, the fourth planet in the system is considered quite likely to be rocky with liquid water oceans.
Finally, I decided to go with the system containing the most nearly Earth-like exoplanet discovered to date. The Kepler space telescope mapped out hundreds of stars in a small portion of the sky near the constellation Lyra. This is where most of the recently announced Earth twins have come from. The system called Kepler 438 has one confirmed planet that, so far, has conditions most similar to Earth in terms of size, density, and light from its star. Unfortunately, that star is a red dwarf that lies over 473 ly away. Still, with an advanced enough ship’s drive pushing the hollowed asteroid to around 0.86c that’s only about 550 years Earth time, about half that on board. What’s a little time dilation between friends. If I also posit advances in medical science that extend the human lifespan to around 210 years, then why the hell not.
Who Goes Where
So, now I knew how the colonists were traveling, and where they were going. All I needed to decide was who was going where, and what sort of societies would grow from them.
I decided to send my enlightened, egalitarian, designed-by-committee, society to Tau Ceti. This is the colony entirely funded and sponsored by the Solar Parliament’s Committee for Coordinating Extra-solar Exploration and Emigration (C2E3) and the Subcommittee for Societal Structure and Sustainability (S4). Their intent was to create an ideal society that embraced all the diversity of humanity, recognized the inherent dignity and equality of all, and had the optimal mix of liberty and obligation. Their working title is the Cetan Compact
The next Ark to set forth was the one claimed by the lone Terrestrial Superpower, the re-constituted Empire of China. I was originally going to send them to HD 40307, but then I realized it was only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It would not have made sense for the Middle Kingdom to send it’s colonists to a star it could not see. Therefore, I sent them to Gliese 667 instead. A little google-fu informed me that this star fell in the section of the sky that ancient Chinese astrologers had named The Winter Dragon. Also, the star system fell within the constellation named the Heart. That seemed rather auspicious, and so, there would go the colony that would become the Celestial Empire.
I decided to send the chosen 144,000 believers from the New Reconciled Unity of Abrahamic Faiths (need to work on that name) to HD 40307. According to the star charts I have been looking at, this would place them somewhere between the Cetan Compact and the Celestial Kingdom.
Next up was the ark purchased by a large mega-corporation, or a consortium thereof. Being an effort motivated by technical and economic advancement I figured that EPIC 201367065 was a good system for them. The red dwarf star has three planets around it that we currently know of. The outermost is in the star’s habitable zone. It has an orbital period of only 44.5 days, though. It is likely to be a relatively difficult world to adapt to. They will adapt and will become the Technus Collective.
Finally, I decided to shoot for the moon, so to speak, and sent out the purely scientifically minded mission, again sponsored by the Solar Parliament, but more from the Office of Advanced Research than from the S4 subcommittee. They stretched the limits of deep space endurance by traveling the 473 ly to Kepler 438. Their mandate was to expand human knowledge and understanding of the universe beyond the constraints of bureaucracy and socio-political interference. It was thought that being so much closer to the galactic center might provide new insights into the workings of the galaxy. Not to mention the insights that might be gained from the journey itself. Being driven by knowledge and research I named them the Collegium Humanis.
Now we know where everyone lives. Over the next few posts we will explore each of these future societies and see how they evolved in isolation from one another until the advent of FTL Interstellar travel.