Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Snapshot: Fomalhaut IV: Dorsey

Planet: Dorsey: Fomalhaut IV:
Orbital radius: 4.7 AU
Orbital period: 6.4 years
Orbital eccentricity: 0.035
Moons: 0
Radius: 6,200 KM
Density: 0.8 Earth
Mass: 0.73 Earth
Gravity: .78 G
Escape Velocity: 9.74 km/s
Axial tilt: 40°
Day: 13 hours
Composition: Iron-nickel, medium metal core
Tectonic Activity: PLATELET TECTONIC: the crust is thinner, plates smaller and the plates recycle themselves much faster. This world has much volcanic activity.
Magnetic field: 8 Gauss (Earth is 0.305 Gauss)
Base Temp: 293.1 K
Average Temperature: 298 K, 25° C
Day: 302 K, 29° C
Night: 294 K, 21° C
Hydrosphere: 85%, Shallow oceans
Atmosphere composition: N2 77%, O2 21%
Atmosphere pressure: 1.022 atmospheres
Albedo: 1.02
Life: Carbon based, mostly aquatic, though land life forms do exist.
Human Population (2440): 1.2 million

Dorsey set many exobiologists running for their labs when it was determined to have an oxygen atmosphere, that it was less than a billion years old, and that it did not have an oversized moon for stabilization. According to all models, Dorsey should have had an atmosphere of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, and pond scum for life. Instead it has a vibrant biosphere, with many multicellular lifeforms. The question was why?

The answer it turns out, was the fact that this world didn't have a moon, was the reason why life exploded on this world. Most early exobiologists forgot one salient fact: When life is pushed into a corner, and then released, it adapts and evolves on an accelerated rate. The closet example on Earth was the Cambrian explosion, when after the Earth was covered in a global ice sheet that later melted, life on Earth went from unicellular to multicellular life in a blink of an eye, so to speak.

The highly variable axial tilt of Dorsey is quite capable of pushing life into the corners over and over. Something that the colonists that settled on Dorsey would find out.

In 2108, the thousand new colonists were shuttled to the surface of Dorsey from the ISCO Donner Pass. They landed on the largest piece of land nearest the equator. Named Gordonland, after the colony's first leader, Dick Gordon, the island was 400 km by 500 km in size. Numerous other islands were nearby, though the first boat wouldn't be built for another twenty years.

Gordonland was a volcanic island, fairly active one at that. Luckily it was formed over a hot spot in Dorsey's mantle, so it did not erupt explosively, but had relatively gentle lava flows that constantly increased the island's size. And on that volcanic soil, there was plant and animal life. Plants were mostly lichens and primitive mosses, and animal life was mostly 12 legged insects that ranged from miniscule to two foot in length. Life on Dorsey is based on DNA like replication, though there are some differences, enough that the local fauna and flora are not edible by man without some processing.

And most of that life was wiped out on Gordonland, primarily by the planting of grasses by the colonists. Within a hundred years, there was not single native species of plant life was left on the island. The insects released by the colonists tried to colonize the nearby islands, but without Terran plantlife, they died quickly trying to eat the local lifeforms. Burrowing insects and other Terran life, such as worms, took nearly a hundred years of tilling the soil and letting Terran microbes settle to displace the local biome.

The colonists formed four settlements: Newtown, Dropoff, Blackrock, and Vista. Each settlement had 250 colonists and an equal share of the seeds and farming equipment, though getting Terran plants to grow took time, and lot of sewage. Instead of dumping the sewage into the ocean, the best way to get Terran biomass into the soil was to use human waste. When the first first full harvest came in at Newtown, in 2112, they held and Thanksgiving and invited the other settlements to participate.

The colony was nearly wiped out when a massive hurricane that had been circling the pole, wound its way down to the equator. This happened just past the height of summer on Dorsey, in 2115. Summers on Dorsey last for 2 standard years, and they form massive hurricanes that circle the pole that is pointing to Fomalhaut during that part of the year.

Blackrock became the fishing port of Gordonland. Due to it's location near recent and current lava flows, Blackrock never got more than truck gardens going. They initially got by selling trading their sewage for food, when they was discovered that some of the aquatic lifeforms native to Dorsey were large, meaty, and with proper preparation, tasty and 75% digestible. The tastiest was a molluskiod that looked like a push-me-pull-you nautilus.

It was the fishermen from Blackrock that settled on the nearby islands and discovered the most dangerous life form on Dorsey: The Conkoral.

The Conkoral is a massive colonial organism made up of corals, but corals that differentiated into different functions, allowing the Conkoral to move. The largest Conkoral ever discovered was nearly a kilometer across. Smaller Conkorals, under 40 meters in size, are quite vicious and next to impossible to kill with standard firearms. So it is not that unusual to see fishing boats outfitted with artillery and an armory stocked with rocket propelled grenades and handheld anti-tank rockets.

Besides the Conkoral, an airborne lifeform found human flesh to be quite tasty, the Bladderwunder. An airborne colonial lifeform similar to a jellyfish, it is kept aloft by an immense bladder filled with hydrogen. They catch fire fairly easily, and their flesh burns like napalm. Clouds of Bladderwunders would descend on a group of humans or animals try to ensnare their prey with long tentacles tipped with venomous stingers. Bladderwunder toxin, a deadly nerve agent against Dorsian life, raises welts on the skin of most humans and causes allergic reactions to an unfortunate few. Standard defense against these flying bags of hydrogen is a well-placed flare from a flare gun.

In fact most animal life on Dorsey found Terran life tasty and edible. So it became habit for the colonists to carry knives, pistols, and other weapons when visiting or colonizing islands.

Life on Dorsey took some getting used to. The colony was settled in the what the colonists call the "Cool time", when Dorsey is side on to Formalhaut. Summer is whenever one of the poles point to Fomalhaut. This results in a 13 hour day, with most humans settling into a circadian rhythm of sleeping six to eight hours every two Dorsey days.

During the "North Summer" the sun sets in the north and at equinox, night time is a ruddy twilight on the equator. Then the sun starts setting further and further south, until Cool Time solstice is occurs and the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, then it continues setting further and further south dragging into South Summer.

The pole in shadow does manage to freeze over, but not for very long and the ice cap is not very large.

Humanity has spread across the equator of Dorsey, on islands or floating man-made islands. The Dorsies are a tough bunch, and are quite self-reliant.

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