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Author Topic: Urania (comments wanted)  (Read 2402 times)

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Offline Cheka Man

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Urania (comments wanted)
« on: August 18, 2005, 07:30:31 PM »
I was reading about Uranus and the planet is tilted at 90*degrees  on  it's axis. This means that it has very long *midnight summers* (in it's case they last 21 years) where the sun never sets in half of the planet, and very long *winters* where it is allways night.

What if there was a planet of that type in an Earth-area orbit, perhaps slightly closer to the sun? Half of the planet being in the sun for a year (or maybe less) half being in darkness for the same amount of time. I'm not aiming for one forever locked in an ice age though. Extensive oceans. Warm/hot summers and then winters that start temperate and become very cold.Ice caps at the poles that melt in the summer and freeze in the winter,perhaps?

Would there be massive problems with life existing on such a planet at all?
If so, is there a way around them? Your suggestions/comments are very welcome.

Btw, I'm not abandoning Acqua.Acqua will remain active as long as I can add new stories and other things to it.

Offline Maggot

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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2005, 10:37:40 PM »
I'm not sure how life would survive without a constant supply of sun light..
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Offline Monument

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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2005, 10:52:32 PM »
Recent understanding of life evolving has very little to do with the environment, regardless of environment, life can evolve, even in environments that would be considered problematic for life as we know it.  While the environment has a VERY direct effect on the resulting lifeforms, the environment is almost irrelevant to whether life exists or not.

The problem with Uranus as a life-producing planet is that just as soon as someone would become acclimated to a given environment, it would change instantly to the exact environment you don't want.  After 20 years of darkness, all of a sudden, everything is lit up like a christmas tree.  Big problems for anything evolved to deal with darkness.  The reverse is just as problematic.  Honestly, I can't see how anything could evolve to adapt to an environment that changes so drastically, unless they migrated away from or towards the light as the situation changed(ie as the planet moved around the sun, the creatures moved to their best environment, light to light side, dark to dark side, etc)

That said, lightless, cold environments, such as the dark side of uranus, would probably be populated with creatures similar to what we find at the bottom of our oceans.  Very specialized, very alien creatures that are uniquely adapted to such a life.  Big eyes, or no eyes at all would be standard.  Creatures using sonar(ala bats, etc), or other forms of non-visual prey detection (hearing, touch, etc) would be standard.  Most grazers would probably be on the go all the time, and many predators are likely to be "trap-style" predators, waiting for prey to enter their kill zone.  The most successful predators are likely to be highly mobile trappers, ones who, if they fail at the trap, are capable of pursuing prey some distance.

In fully lighted environments, the normal sleep cycle of night and day would be supplanted by probably near 100% consciousness, with rest taken as appropriate within those hours.  A "sleep time" would be almost unheard of.  Predators and prey are highly likely to be reflective of standard predators and prey of our world, with the noted exception that NONE are likely to have developed night vision of any kind, and they are also highly unlikely to have developed any senses substantially beyond sight(for predation), but prey are likely to have highly attuned senses of hearing and smell as well.

If I were to use a world like this for real gaming, I would make some way to have the planet ALWAYS facing in one direction, without worrying about the light and dark sides flipping sides.  Perhaps the gravitation and rotation always keep one side facing the sun, or something.

Of course, then you have a near instant campaign.  The light side and the dark side leave each other alone, each with societies on their appropriate sides.  The two sides rarely interact.  Until the planet suddenly shifts by 90 degrees or something.  Half of the dark and half of the light societies are now on each side, big problems for the appropriately misplaced society.  What happens?  Does one side help the other, does one side annihilate the other, who knows.  But if you put the PC's on the edge, between darkness and light, at the start of the campaign, and plunge them into either darkness or light between the two sides, you can be d**n sure you're going to find out.  ;)
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Offline Monument

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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2005, 10:55:32 PM »
Quote from: "Maggot"
I'm not sure how life would survive without a constant supply of sun light..


Actually, all that is required is a constant supply of ENERGY.  Usually, life evolves in sunlight, but vents on the ocean floors are simply TEEMING with life.  Hydrothermal Vents(???), those life forms have a SULPHUR basis, rather than CARBON basis, and live by transmuting sulphur to energy or something.  It's pretty freaky stuff.
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2005, 01:32:28 AM »
Such environmental conditions exist on Earth: the poles.  Life certainly exists there.  Also, the change in daylight isn't drastic; it takes several Earth-years as the sun slowly rises and sets.  

Evolutionary problems for a change in conditions for 42-year years are largely dependent on the length of generations.  Single-celled organisms that reproduce every 20-30 minutes can adjust along with the changes in light level.  At the other end, an organism that lives longer than one Uranian year would be adapted for both extremes.  For example, a creature with very fine hearing for night and thick skin to resist sunlight during the long days.  

Other adaptive methods could be lengthy hibernation, either by waiting to bloom during the long nights, or hiding underground during the day.  Also, an organism may only live during one part of the cycle, burying seeds/eggs that sprout/hatch at the appropriate time.  Even if the life expectancy of such an organism is much shorter than the multi-year day, this can still happen.  For example, houseflies only live about 12-13 days, and the final generation before winter exists only to hibernate during the winter & lay new eggs immediately upon awakening.  

Yet another alternative is mobility. The slow rate of light changes allows creatures adapted to any light level to continuously move along with the sun.  This is easier for those living farther from the poles, as they have less distance to move.  

Several years ago, my brother created a game world using this idea.  The days were too hot, and the nights too cold, so Human life was nomadic, and lived in one of two bands, eternally in either dawn or dusk.  There were permanent settlements, but these were inhabited only for a short time, before the entire group would move to a new city, one either warmer or cooler. He also had creatures adapted to either extreme, both monstrous and sentient.  Humanity was divided into four large segments, separated by dawn & dusk, and by a large swath of land circumscribing both poles where the distance one needed to travel was too far to escape the freezing night or burning day.  There could be communication--and even some measure of trusted trade--for the groups divided by dawn & dusk, but those divided east & west had no way of knowing that each other even existed.
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Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2005, 09:05:50 AM »
I have only one word to say (and a definition from Wikipedia)
The albedo is a measure of reflectivity of a surface or body. It is the ratio of electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation) reflected to the amount incident upon it. The fraction, usually expressed as a percentage from 0% to 100%, is an important concept in climatology and astronomy. This ratio depends on the frequency of the radiation considered: unqualified, it refers to an average across the spectrum of visible light. It also depends on the angle of incidence of the radiation: unqualified, normal incidence. Fresh snow albedos are high: up to 90%. The ocean surface has a low albedo. Earth has an average albedo of 37-39% (Earth is 74% water/ ocean).

Things warm up and cool down in our lovely 24 hour period. Over a 21 year period (or something equally as huge) the amount of heat that would occur on the day side would continue to build. And build. So while air might move and cool, the ground would continue to radiate heat like a stove burner (being cooled ever so slightly by the wind). Without a dark period to cool it, sun side ground would be very hot.  

The only thing preventing cold side from becoming a solid rock covered in deep glaciers is the warming winds from the day side. Sure there are going to be massive glaciers, but they are only going to be huge (by our standards) rather than something out of the Cryogenian period. Oh and there will only be deep oceans from the 30th parallel. Albedo not withstanding.


Also remember that it is the exchange of heat that generates wind and ocean currents. So all currents will be screaming from the warm pole to the cold poll, with the resulting low zones causing screaming returns. An airborn society might be better off (or an underground one).

The only place that would generate a semi-constant energy level (besides some exotic ones) would be at the terminus region. Of course you would have gail force winds and tidal flows of extremes, but hey... that is what makes it interesting.

While large sized (Dog and up) probably could not evolve there without magical help, it could live there if properly prepped. So if things came from somewhere else.. with some supplies... they might make it.
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Offline Umberle

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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2005, 09:26:47 AM »
Vegetation could also evolve to require long periods of cold/dark hibernation.  Apple trees, for example, don't do as well in places that don't have hard freezes or periods of cold.  There are some varieties being developed to get around that but the theory is the same.  That being said, some plant seeds can evolve to survive freezing.  You could even end up with something wherein, when the light started to decrease, it triggers a huge reproductive response in the plants which all die when the freeze hits but the seeds survive until 'dawn' and everything starts over again.  It would be pretty amazing at 'dusk.'
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Offline Cheka Man

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« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2005, 10:24:25 AM »
I've worked it out.It'll have six months of darkness and six months of sunlight.One month of spring, five of summer, one of autumm where it is cold outside but not utterly freezing, and five of winter.

Like AG with his world thread and his comment thread, I'll start another thread for the world and have this one for comments/suggestions.Like Acqua, people can add their own things to Urainia.

And I'll emphazize again, I will not abandon Acqua as long as there are still new things to add to it. :)

Offline Chaosmark

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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2005, 04:24:55 PM »
My one thought that wasn't mentioned here was that with respect to Cheka's creative capacity, if one wanted to go CoC with the campaign, watch Pitch Black. That planet seemed alot like this one that is being thought of. The creatures on the dark side might even have the same adversity to sunlight as the bat-monsters did. Sunlight! POOF! Vampire!
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2005, 12:43:50 AM »
While the actual rate of rotation wouldn't have nearly as strong an effect as the 90-degree tilt, it would affect winds.  A faster rotation could thus substantially make life more difficult for an airborne population, or perhaps high wind velocities would be what makes it work.  Conversely, if the rate of rotation is much slower, then what sort of ground interference the wind encounters can have a greater effect.  Assuming that the tidal stress doesn't build to where vulcanism is a substantial factor, there should be large areas where the great changes in temperature, high wind speeds, and full state changes of water or other substances, would erode the ground flat or nearly so.  

Something else to consider is how the temperature extremes would compare to what we are accustomed to experiencing.  That is, it may actually be rather pleasant during the years-long days, but quite hostile to life at night.  Conversely, the nights may be dark but cooly pleasant, with the daytime hot enough to melt soft metals. Uranus, from an Earthly perspective, is constantly a deadly cold, even during the long days.
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Offline Cheka Man

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« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2005, 07:35:40 PM »
Coming up soon...

One of the Uranian cities
Some of the tribes of Urania
Uranian animals

Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2005, 10:40:13 PM »
A couple of thoughts on this project

So now we have a planet with some degree of axis rotation that points to some approximately fixed direction during its' year. This gives you the several month day and night. The season is based upon your location on the sphere and where the planet is in the yearly cycle. If you stood still on this planet, you will eventually have all four of the seasonal extremes. If you keep moving on the planet yearwise, it could be "forever summer". If you move counter yearwise, you can shift towards fall and winter.

Your planet will be on the outside of the "life zone", having a radius somewhere between Earth and Mars. This will let you use albedo to your advantage. The world would not become too overheated on day side. If it has a thicker atmosphere, greenhouse effects could slow down the heat loss to cold on the night side.

If the world is circling a sun, the terminator (the area between light and dark) will shift every day a small bit. The terminator is the place where dayside's light leaks over to the night side... a twilight zone. It goes from dark night to noon by crossing the line. There will be light leak into the darkside from the dayside. The dayside will be quite cool given the dark sucking up the heat.

If the year is 365 days, it moves one degree of arc every day. If the planet is earth sized (approximate 24,859 circumfrence), the terminus line will shift 60 miles a day. Since this planet is slightly larger, it would be 70 miles per day. (In short take the circumfrence of the world, divided by the number of days, there are small adjustments for latitude, but use this as a ball park. )

Remember: Urenia has no equator that has great heat. It just has poles one arctic and one thermal that slowly creep across the land.

It will be fun, if you lived on a mountain (or any area higher than the surrounding) you could see the terminator line moving towards or away from you every day. But also keep in mind that traders will follow the terminator... it is cooler near it (or warmer depending on the direction). If you have herd animals, or follow the migrations of the animals... you would run with the terminator zone as well. Not neccisarily with the zone, but you would continue to migrate to follow your season.

The twilight zone will have fairly intense winds, more so than any other "region" on the planet. And this zone of light darkness would anywhere from 10 to 200 miles deep, depending on the terrain. The light side would be cooled for a distance upto three times that.

Note: to get a good idea on how this all looks, you need two good sized balls to represent sun and planet, marked so you can try to get the appearance.

This planet will have vegetation like that in the deserts; life that can change radically and respond to precious changes in temp or water/ Think about it, when the twilight zone has passed and sunlight comes, there will be a period of bounty... then it becomes too hot and the lands become desert like? Spring and fall are the "good times" when summer is very, very hot... and winter very, very cold.


Animals that stay put and plants would be quite dynamic in their lifecycle. Animals that migrate would be stable (earth like). Some animals might want to stay in the polar zone. I would think that most animal will be mobile, constantly following their season around the planet. Some animals would be set up for warmer areas... thus they would follow the terminator some 30 degrees infront of it. Those that are very cold (like polar bears) would follow some 90 degrees behind it.

People would be nomadic too. You just need to keep moving to stay in an environment you are adapted to. If You stay put if you have something you need to hang on to (like mines or towns). Nomads will be more common though.

Now keep in mind that the sun would be corkscrewing across the sky. Don't believe me, do the marble thing.

And how do you keep time here? Seasons and years are easy, but hours and "days"... I don't think so. What astrological measure would be used? Sun looping might form some useful period. What else does?

Oh Cities... they would be quite deep and quite tall. Tall because they could be cooled by the winds; deep to avoid the polar cold. So everyone would have a "day place" and a "night place".
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Offline manfred

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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2005, 05:03:16 AM »
Of keeping time...

How about a small moon, or several? (A large moon could mix things up - or actually be the cause of it all.) For instance, Phobos circles Mars once in almost 8 hours.

Of course, the visual contact could be possible only on the night side, or in the twilight zones, I guess. But you could add a sense for the magnetic field or some other way to feel the moon(s), and time.
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