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The worlds of the K819 Star System.

by Vince Woodward 2 months ago in Sci Fi
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A story about the planets of an imagined star system a few dozen light years from Earth.

A view from the desert moon of Aeolis of the gas giant Gigantia.

This is a story about the planets of an imagined star system, supposedly a few dozen light years from Earth. I am an artist and work in a variety of media and this include digital artwork. I have been experimenting with a piece of computer software called Terragen which can be used to create realistic landscape scenes. The application uses procedural mathematics - such as Perlin fractals - rather than manual sculpting. The advantage of this method is that landscape features of all scales can be rendered, from pebbles and vegetation, to entire planets. Using this software, I have created images of a series of planets with varying and interesting environmental conditions depending on their distance from the imagined star K819.

K819 is a star of smaller mass than our sun, and also has a cooler surface temperature of 3200 degrees C. According to the way that stars are categorised by their surface temperature, this would place it in the category of K type star, with the Sun being a hotter G type star with a surface temperature of 5600 degrees C. to the human eye it would have the appearance of the how the sun looks in the early part of sunset with a distinctly orangey-yellow color to its light. It should be remembered that the sun only appears this way to us on Earth because at low angles more sunlight is absorbed by the atmosphere, and as it is mostly blue light that is absorbed, we see a yellow sun. In reality, beyond the atmosphere the sun is very white in colour, as it appears at midday.

K819 Alpha – Megathermia (scorched lava world)

The closest planet to K819 is Megathermia and this planet orbits extremely close to its parent star, such that one orbit takes only 27 earth days. This planet can be described as a Super Earth with a mass of 2.5 earth masses. The close proximity to K819 means that Surface temperature are incredibly high at an average of 720 C and the atmosphere, which is composed mainly of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, has a crushing pressure of nearly 900 times that of Earth’s atmosphere. These conditions are so severe that the surface of this planet is actually partially molten with pools of lava scattered across the surface.

Megathermia is, of course, entirely hostile to life, but it is interesting in that there is the question of how it formed. It is thought that this planet may have once been a Neptune like gas giant that orbited further out, but interactions with another gas giant within the planetary system forced it into a tighter orbit. If this was the case then solar winds must have stripped away much of the gas giant’s mass, only to leave a rocky core with a dense atmosphere.

Probes sent to study Megathermia have only been partially sucessful. The extraordinarily severe atmospheric and surface conditions mean that only a few grainy images have been returned and probes have failed – literally melting – before reaching the surface.

K819 Beta – Planitis Mation (tidally locked terrestrial planet)

Planitis Mation is the second planet from K819, its orbit is still quite small and one orbit takes 91 earth days. Despite being this close, because K819 is a much cooler, smaller star than the Sun temperature are not so severe as might be imagined. However, when planets are close to there their host star, they often become tidally locked, and this is the case with Planitis Mation. This means that one side of the planet is in permanent daylight while the other is in permanent darkness. It is similar to how on earth we only see one face of the moon while the other side is not visible because the moon is tidally locked to the Earth.

Climatic conditions are therefore very different from those of a planet like the Earth. On the daylight side of the planet there is a point that experiences constant overhead sunlight and is therefore very hot, while the opposite side of the planet is in permanent frozen darkness. There is a zone near the boundary of these two regions, known as the terminator, where permanent twilight conditions occur, and this is the area of most moderate conditions. In order for a tidally locked planet to remain relatively habitable the atmosphere must be capable of transferring enough heat between the daylight hemisphere and the dark hemisphere in that the atmosphere doesn’t freeze or any liquid water boils away. Planitis Mation means ‘eyeball planet’ in Greek and this relates to its appearance. The sunlight face of the planet has oceans and large rivers and a huge storm system constantly rages under the solar hotspot. The other half of the planet is covered by a vast ice sheet. Strong winds transfer heat between these two hemispheres. the hottest parts of the surface reach 70 degrees C while the coldest regions are below –90 degrees C. The more temperate region of Planitis Mation may well be suitable for life though none has been detected.

K819 Gamma – Oceania Hadea (warm water world)

The third planet of the K819 system is Oceana Hadea, a water world, with an ocean of water covering the entire surface. The orbital period is 298 earth days, and average temperatures are around 15 degrees C warmer than the Earth with atmospheric pressure just being slightly higher than the Earth at 1.2 bars. The atmosphere is rather earth like but with much less little oxygen, and a higher Carbon dioxide content leading to a significant greenhouse effect. This planet is roughly the same size and mass as the Earth. These warm conditions mean there is no ice present on the ocean surface and there is abundant thermal energy in the atmosphere.

The name Oceana Hadea means ‘hell ocean’ in Greek, and that is apt as the lack of landmasses mean that winds can blow around the planet unimpeded, huge hurricanes can form and persist for weeks, clouds cover most of the surface. Winds can reach 250 miles per hour and 50 metre waves are not uncommon. Interesingly, ocean water samples do not seem to contain biosignatures. It seems that the lack of continents seems to have inhibited the development if life. Erosion from land masses is the mechanism that supplies nutrients to the ocean, and lack of nurients may be the issue. There may, however, be life existing in the deep ocean associated with hydrothermal vent activity.

K819 Delta – Neo Terra (Earth like terrestrial planet)

Neo Terra, is the fourth most distant planet, and is the most Earth-like planet of the K819 system. Here, there are large oceans and continents and atmosphere with a similar density to that of Earth. The orbital period is 415 earth days and Neo Terra has dimensions somewhere between those of Mars and Earth. However, conditions are, in fact, quite hostile to life. The atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and methane, but there is a high level of toxic chlorine. This chlorine reacts with water in the atmosphere meaning that the rain and oceans are highly acidic.

Images returned from space probes show something of a rather photogenic world, with teal skies and pink clouds, and large mountains. Methane in the atmosphere gives the sky its greenish tint, active plate tectonic, volcanism and an active hydrology create a varied and dynamic landscape. There are also interesting chemical reactions taking place such as where minerals are precipitated from water bodies. The environment of Neo Terra may in fact be somewhat similar the early Earth.

K819 Epsilon – Gigantia (gas giant)

The fifth planet of the system is the gas giant known as Gigantia which takes 8 earth years to orbit K819. Gigantia is 10% more massive than Jupiter, and has a spectacular ring system. intense radiation created by this planet’s massive magnetic field interacting with solar wind has made exploration difficult. Like all gas giants there is no actual ‘surface’ and the planet is composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, and some amounts of other gases. There are a large number of moons, some of which are little more than captured asteroids, while the Moon of Aeolis has a significant atmosphere, and is the only moon to have been explored. Aeolis has similarities with mars, having a rocky desert-like surface and a dusty carbon dioxide atmosphere.

Early in the history of the K819 system, before the terrestrial planets had formed from the planetary nebula Megathermia may have been another, smaller, gas giant. It is thought that orbitatal interactions between these two huge planets may have pushed Megathermia inti into a very close orbit around K819 while pushing Gigantia further out. This process must have left enough material behind for the formation of the inner planets, however.

K819 Zeta – Cryogenia (ice world)

The furthest discovered planet is Cryogenia, a frozen icey world. Its orbit is highly elliptical suggesting that there may be many similar small planets in this region. A total of 36 Earth years is taken for a single orbit. Ther may be a rocky core but this planet is composed largely of ice, both water ice and frozen nitrogen. Massive cracks are visible on the surface which appear to indicate that a liquid ocean of unknown composition may exist beneath the surface ice. Valles Titania is huge canyon like feature similar in form to an oceanic trench as found on the Earth. The base of this canyon is an extraordinary 50 kilometres below neighbouring mountain peaks, five times deeper than the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The frigid conditions on Cryogenia mean that a layer of nitrogen gas that has not been frozen pools in lower elevations of the surface, rather like fog forming in mountain valleys on a cold winter’s night. There may well be Geothermal vents at the deepest parts of these trenches and these could well support simple life forms. It is something of a mystery as to what process is providing the heat source within this small planet that is sustaining these tectonic processes

Sci Fi

About the author

Vince Woodward

I am a partially sighted artist and writer living near Margate in the United Kingdom.

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