Lumenna-Súnáris System (7): e’Luminarien

I/6/n. e’Luminarien (“The Belt”)

Class: Asteroid belt
Orbit: 2.24 au (avg.)
Orbit (ecc.): varies, mostly under 0.25

Blackbody temp.: 176 K (avg.)

Next up, dividing the inner more-or-less rocky planets from the outer gas giants, and scattered over a much bigger area of space than that average suggests, we have the e’Luminiarien (approximately translated “the little traveler’s lights”).

You want rocks? We got rocks. Lots and lots and lots of rocks. Metal-rich rocks. Silicate rocks. Carbonaceous rocks. Icy rocks. Just pick how far you go into the belt by which kind you want to end up with, and there’re all the rocks you could ever want.

And that’s the belt. Naturally, in the future, there are mining operations and stations ranging from the massive (“Andir Drift: Gateway to the Belt”) to the tiny (“Jini’s Oxygen Shack”) scattered all over the place, by the thousands if not tens of thousands.

Here are three of the most notable big ones:

1 Andir

1 Andir is The Big Asteroid That Isn’t, Except By Courtesy. Technically, it’s a Andirian-class geopassive planetesimal, or what we’d call a dwarf planet, but since it’s sitting right smack in the middle of an asteroid belt in all its hundreds-of-miles-across glory, it’s an asteroid by courtesy.

And as the biggest thing out there, in the future, it’s the administrative, commercial, and population center of the belt. Andir Drift, which grows to take up much of its volume, is a hollowed-out beehive habitat that’s got more docks, cageworks, factories, malls, homes, parks, bars, etc., etc., etc., hanging off it than most of the rest of the e’Luminiarien put together, is the administrative capital of the region, and is probably the one place you can be pretty sure every resident of the belt has visited.

But don’t call it a planet. The locals hate that.

6 Mélciö

6 Mélciö, which is a partially differentiated metallic asteroid similar to Vesta, is operated by a number of loosely federated scientific research stations, gathered there partly by unique facilities (the combination of minimal gravity and heavy shielding available by those willing to use the core lab, for example), and partly because of the number of very important breakthroughs that have been made there over the years.

Lots of people hoping that brilliance will rub off on them, in short.

32 Avénan

A carbonaceous asteroid nearer the outer edge of the e’Luminiarien, 32 Avénan and the smaller cohorts set in orbit around it are technically Imperial Navy Fleet Station Avénan. This used to be the Prime Base for the whole damn Fleet back in the day, before stargates were invented and the IN moved as a whole to Palaxias System, and it’s still where the First Capital Flotilla bases out of.

It’s also rather more open to public viewing than most IN bases because of its great historical importance.  It’s where the Consolidation ended and the Aeon-Long Peace began, for a start. It’s where the Talentar Revolt was negotiated to a successful conclusion, for another. As such, it’s also the headquarters and face of the Admiralty’s sophont relations “flotilla”.



Truffle House

mycofibrillin was originally a product designed by the space division of Molecular Architecture, ICC, under the Mycofibrillin™ trademark. It was a development of early experiments in creating spaceborne life, such as the regoformer “asteroid lichen”, which sustains itself using solar energy and water extracted from icy regolith.

Unlike its predecessors, mycofibrillin was designed not as an experiment or artwork, but as a functional tool. A designed-from-scratch neogen, it was a reinterpretation of various fungoid lifeforms – which took the form of an intertwined mat of fibers – for the space environment: a recreation of similar reaction networks making use of silicates, silanes, and silicones, at much lower temperatures, relying upon both a trickle of solar energy and provided radio-frequency energy broadcasts to power its metabolism.

The function of mycofibrillin was simply to stabilize aggregate-class “rubble pile” asteroids for relocation, or indeed for other exploitation. A rubble pile infected with a mycofibrillin culture, along with a microwave beacon to feed its growth phase, would swiftly find itself perfused by silicone-sheathed rhizomorphic hyphae of substantial tensile strength, acting to bind the many components of the rubble pile together into a single coherent mass.

Since this promising start, later offshoot technologies have included the thermophilic bionanotech weaves developed in conjunction with the chfsssc for stabilizing tectonically vulnerable regions of planetary crusts along with a variety of refined mycofibrillin derivatives, including a number of strains whose tensile strength is claimed to be suitable for maintaining the stability of large asteroids or small planetesimals when spun up to usable gravity-simulating speeds (although, in practice, the majority of residents of these worlds prefer microgravity environments).

– The Biotechnology of Space: A History, Kynthia Naratyr-ith-Naratyr

Trope-a-Day: Space People

Space People: Well, about three-fifths of everyone, actually.

That would be “about” principally because it’s really hard to determine, say, exactly where one draws a line between people who live on large asteroids in “habitats” and people who live on small moons in “domes”.

And depending on how you want to count things – well, you could count only people who live in starships or city-ships (habitat-dwellers say “Hey!”), or ships and habitats (asteroid-dwellers have an issue to raise), or people who have the key spacer biomods (absolutely everyone without some sort of compatibility problem, since even planet-dwellers find themselves in space enough that the calcium hack, thumb-toe, etc., are now part of the baseline set), or only members of the genuine four-armed sennóris clade (a long way from everyone dwelling in space long-term), or people who live in space-type habitats (includes lots of moon- and actual-planet-dwellers), or people possessing the characteristic shibboleths of spacer culture (although since spacer and groundling cultures have been bleeding into one another for centuries)…

In short: there are Space People, but there’s not a readily denotable boundary between them and everyone else.

Planetary Classification

Tony Harris asks:

It sounds as though you have some kind of planetary classification scheme set up. Care to share how it works? :please:

Well, yes, yes I do.

(Let me start out by saying that it does not, however, define what a planet is, except inasmuch as the classification scheme’s largest category stops at 2.5e28 (i.e. 2.5 x 1028) kg, which is about 13.2 Jupiter masses, at which point it gets kicked over to the stellar classification scheme at the bottom end of dwarves, brown.

Insofar as there is a definition of a planet used there, it’s dreadfully informal and would run along the lines of:

  • Orbits a star (other than a brown dwarf that is itself part of another star system);
  • Masses less than 2.5e28 kg;
  • Masses enough to be approximately spheroidal;
  • Is cared enough about by travelers to be listed in Leyness’s Worlds, or some other casual reference that isn’t an astronomer’s catalog or a space pilot’s ephemeris.

So, Pluto, despite being a gelidian-class planetesimal by the scheme, is a planet because it has enough historical significance and popular interest that it’s undoubtedly mentioned in the hypothetical Leyness’s Worlds: A Guide To Places No-One’s Discovered Yet, Except The Natives Who Obviously Don’t Count, while the other plutoids or whatever we’re calling them these days aren’t, because they don’t.)

As for the scheme itself: well, it’s kind of long and complicated and unfinished, especially since the universe keeps surprising us with New Facts About Planets that need to be fitted into it as if they’d been there all along, so I hope you’ll forgive me for not sharing the whole thing. But I don’t mind talking a bit about it, so I’ll do that.

The primary distinction it uses when classifying – and it classifies everything from small rocks through moons and on up, not just “planets” – is mass, which has the advantage of encompassing a fair bit of other useful information. Using mass, it defines five basic categories: small bodies (< 6e20 kg; too small to maintain hydrostatic equilibrium); planetesimals (6e20 kg to 9e23 kg; can maintain hydrostatic equilibrium); lithics (9e23 kg to 3e25 kg; tend to clear out their orbits and self-sustain geology); helians (1.8e25 kg to 1e26 kg; big enough to retain helium, but not yet gas giants, and yes, this overlaps with the one before it); and gas giants (5e25 kg to 2.5e28 kg, and so does that). There’s also a sixth class, wanderers, which defines those odd planetary-massed objects that aren’t gravitationally bound to any star and just drift about in the deep.

The overlaps, incidentally, are because none of these top-level categories are intended to be particularly strict. The Imperial Grand Survey learned long ago that the universe is a very complicated place that doesn’t fit itself into neat boxes for their convenience – so the boxes are a mite fuzzy, and worlds are assigned to the class that bests fits them even if technically they’re a little too massive for the top-level category that world sits within.

So, the categories: small bodies are asteroids, comets, and similarly-sized moons, for the most part, subcategorized primarily by composition and solidity (aggregate-class rubble piles vs. silicaceous-class stony asteroids, for example). The comets are also divided based on whether they’re icy bodies orbiting peacefully in the outer system, or which are actively plunging through the inner system.

Planetesimals are mostly large asteroids and moons, divided up by age (are they just forming?), composition (rocky or tarry or icy), level of geological activity and its source (mostly passive, due to eccentric orbits and epistellar heating, due to tidal flexing, due to internal heating, etc.

Vesta, Ceres, Luna (selénian-class), Europa, Titan (galínilacustric-class), even Mars (eutalentic-class), they all fall somewhere into this classification.

Lithics are the big rocky ones with substantial atmosphere. Their subclassifications are much the same as the planetesimals, plus additional ones: age (forming or dying), water content (xeric through thalassic to pelagic – a global ocean, in these terms) and their methane and ammonia equivalents, presence of a biosphere, presence of halogens, and so forth. There are more lithic subclasses than there are subclasses of anything else, just about, partly because they’re more varied, and partly because they also attract a great deal of interest.

Earth (sylithotectonic-class) fits in here.

Helians get the aborted gas giants, plus a variety of superterrestrial rocky worlds with thick, helium-rich atmospheres. Its number of subclassifications is relatively limited, simply because there’s a very fine line between retaining helium at all and ending up among the…

Gas giants, divided principally by mass (subgiants, dwarf giants, mesogiants, supergiants), and then principally by their orbital positioning (epistellar, within the snowline, beyond the snowline) which defines most of their composition and behavior.

Around here, they would include, for example, Jupiter (melíeréan-class) and Neptune (déiran-class).

So, I hope that was an interesting peek into how the IGS planetary classification system works. I’m happy to answer a bit more, if anyone’s interested, but as I said, I don’t really want to put the whole thing out there until it’s suitably finished and polished.

Birthday Present

Peréä System, far orbit, 4016


“Okay, go ahead and open your eyes.”

“You got me a giant laser! Wait, where did you get me a giant laser? … And, um, why did you get me a giant laser?”

“In order: yes, the Laserider Network’s fire sale, and –”

“Fire sale?”

“Yeah. It hasn’t hit the public ‘weave yet, but word from the Deep Space Relay is that someone back Home has cracked the fittling problem and they’re sending us the necessary, so the interstellar light-sail network concept is dead in space. Helén Inuriannon is taking the news about as well as possible for someone whose reason for being here just took a long walk out a short airlock, but they’re in full close-it-out, sell-it-off mode already. I picked the main laser array up for a short song and a handful of considerations.”

“We have FTL now –  no, never mind, in a minute. So why do we – I – whichever want a giant laser?”

“Think of it less as a laser and more the prospect of being independently wealthy.”

“Right now I’m thinking of it less as an explanation and more the prospect of being annoyingly smug.”

“If they have FTL, we’ll be getting more colonists, more quickly. That means the ecotects are going to be even hungrier for metal than they are now. And that laser…”

“…is going to be a thousand sideritic asteroids smelted down and put on the market first.”

“So, you like it?”

“Be as smug as you want today, love.”

Trope-a-Day: Asteroid Thicket

Asteroid Thicket: Averted.  Space does not work that way.  Any time you see asteroids that close together, it’s because someone’s moved them there for a purpose – which means, if you try flying through them, your biggest concern is not hitting them, it’s local traffic control wanting to know what the hell you think you’re doing and ordering you back into the raicve lane.