The Last Federation:Speculation About The Nature Of The 11 Planet Types
Armchair pseudoscience incoming! If you know more about this than us, then please feel free to weigh in and we can update this. However, it's a good question as to how life could evolve on the various hostile sorts of planets that we have in this solar system, so here are our speculations:
Basically like Mercury in a lot of respects. Extremely arid planet that is just far enough from the sun to not turn outright molten. These are small and paradoxical kinds of planets.
Being small and so near to such a large object as the sun, they would become “tidally locked,” which means that their rotation would come to match the speed of their orbit around the sun. This is like the moon is to Earth. In other words, the same side of the moon is facing Earth at all times, even though the moon is rotating around its own axis. It just rotates in perfect sync with its orbit around the Earth. So we never see the backside of the moon from earth, we can only see it from spacecraft that fly around the back of it.
That matters a lot for a planet like this that is so close to the sun. The side that faces the sun would basically be completely inhospitable. It would be pretty close to molten, and I would not expect much to live there. On the other side of the planet it would be extremely dark, perpetual night. It would also still be extremely hot -- just not remotely so hot as the daylight side.
So you’d have this civilization building up mostly in the a very hot night (much hotter than we could survive in), and basically trying to stay away from the daylight side that would kill even them.
Gravity would be… interesting, I guess. The planet itself is small enough not to have much gravity. But it’s close enough to the massive gravity of the sun that I think that would have a nontrivial impact. And since the side the planet that is habitable is always facing away from the sun, that would mean that the sun’s extra gravity would pull the aliens down towards the planet’s surface as if the planet had more gravity than it really did.
There would be no reason for the aliens not to build upwards -- indeed, because the planet is so small to begin with (and half unusable, and probably way too hot on the interior, too), they would probably build some pretty massive skyscrapers. But these would have to be extremely strong and reinforced to withstand gravity that is probably a bit lower than Earth’s. The relative size of these skyscrapers to the scale of the planet itself would probably make them practically make the planet itself look a bit spiky, at least in theory. Could be pretty crazy.
This is hypothetical, there’s not something like this directly in our solar system. These would be the densest source of iron, silicate, and other metals in the solar system, this is practically a giant ball bearing. Tunnels dug inside it are extremely sturdy, which is fortunate given that the surface temperatures are unlivably hot.
In order for this not to melt, I’d suspect that it would not be tidally locked to the sun, and might be spinning pretty fast. So gravity would be slightly decreased by the centrifugal force, on an already small planet. But it would be noticeably higher gravity on whichever side is away from the sun at the moment, while noticeably even lower on whichever side is toward the sun at the moment.
It would be… a very strange place to live. I think of the Thoraxians as being particularly suited to this.
Buildings would need to be really reinforced in both directions so that they neither tear away from the planet nor get crushed into the planet as the rotation happens. The only reasons to come out of the tunnels would be to expand the population capacity, as well as to have a place to build spaceships to get off of this terrible rock. ;)
This is a seething mass of swirling lava very close the sun. There is no hotter climate in the solar system. Interesting elemental resources if you can manage to extract them. There isn’t a planet like this in our solar system, but there could be if there was something a bit closer to it than mercury. The whole planet would basically be like one big lava lake.
Whatever life was on a planet like this would be extremely tough, and very different from us in genetic makeup. Basically using some completely different basis for life other than carbon, since carbon simply couldn’t exist here as it would elsewhere. I think of the Burlusts as living here.
Speculating on what a technological society that lives here would look like is pretty fantastical, as it would require a really different order of life compared to what we currently recognize. Whatever it is would originally have to be able to live in molten lava, so it would potentially have to be based on some metal that is liquid at high temperatures.
So then eventually that forms some strange form of life, and it would probably go downward to where things are more cool towards the planet’s center, instead of up to where things are even hotter. The life would have to then shift so that it could exist in temperatures other than the extreme heat of the lava. Then it would have to figure out a way to get back up past the molten lava if it ever wanted to get into space.
So by the time this race becomes spacefaring, it would be pretty advanced indeed. Most (all?) of the society would live on the interior of the planet under the magma layer. But there would be some sort of crazy spires built out of an incredibly heat-tolerant metal (tungsten actually freezes when it touches lava, if I recall, so that might be one). Those spires would be built outwards, and then spaceships could be built relatively close to the surface (comparatively speaking) due to the lack of atmosphere and the low (though fluctuating like iron silicate) gravity.
These are earth-like planet with abundant water, moderate natural resources, and varied natural wildlife.
This is an earth-like planet with already-strip-mined resources and largely poisoned water sources; most wildlife has died off and an artificial replacement ecosystem has been reestablished.
This is a very advanced civilization that only survives because of their technology. They’ve killed off most of what was natural, and have had to built artificial replacements. What a waste! But nonetheless, here we are. Huge amounts of smog and pollution, way too many buildings, nasty water, etc.
Outside of the massive cities would be enormous horrible trash dumps in massive mountains, deep wounds into the earth where metals and other resources were stripped out, and so forth. Not a happy place.
These are resource-rich microbial barren with slow axial rotation that leads to scorching days and freezing nights. In other words, these are Mars, just slightly closer to the sun than actual Mars is. The atmosphere on a planet like this would be very low, so you would not see anything thick in terms of atmospheric haze when looking at it from space -- artists often represent this wrong, and our players are the sort to appreciate this sort of accuracy. ;)
Because of the extreme fluctuations in temperature conditions and available light, and the low-pressure atmosphere, there are almost no races that would be able to survive on the surface of a planet like this without assistance. If they evolved on this planet, we have to assume that they did so in caverns underground, and then eventually made their way to the surface. It’s the only plausible scenario for most of our races.
Anyhow, this means that either an interconnected network of tightly-sealed buildings and tunnels on the surface is needed, or a bunch of domes. Solar collectors for energy would also be abundant outside of the domes, with whole fields devoted to solar panels collecting energy during the long days, so that there would be enough power remaining during the long nights. Any civilization on this planet would be kind of like an iceberg, where you are seeing just the tip on the surface, and most of it is actually underground.
Hypertonic Gas Giant
A lot like Jupiter, although with some attributes of Venus (which is not a gas giant) thrown in. Among the largest planets in the solar system, has swirling winds and extremely high atmospheric pressure. Even so, the solid core is resource-rich and massive.
I’d like to speculate that the race here comes from underground on the surface. Their biggest problems would be the wind, more than anything else. And the pressure, too. They would need pressure suits and extremely strong thrusters to do anything on the surface, and their buildings would be extremely sturdy.
Gravity itself would be quite high, along with the pressure of the atmosphere itself and then the horizontal ripping winds. So nowhere would there be sturdier, stockier buildings than here. They would probably be very wide and with lots of angular cross supports to stay up at all.
Fun fact: if you get high enough in the atmosphere in a suit that protects you from the pressure, a human could fly just by flapping their arms and legs. Awesome.
Cosmic radiation would be less than even Earth thanks to the huge atmosphere here, although I don’t know that much light would reach the surface. It would be like being constantly in the worst storm the earth has ever seen. Sunlight would get through, sort of, but it would be incredibly stormy.
Warmth would come from the planet’s massive center, which likely would be radioactive like Earth’s. They would never want for anything, resources-wise or land-wise. As they learn to tame this planet, they would be able to outpace any other race in terms of their available resources.
If there were any surface animals, I think they would have to be like godzilla or something, except even sturdier, heh. :)
Gauss Gas Giant
These are completely Jupiter. Among the largest planets in the solar system, they have a largely uninteresting and small core under a swirling mass of gasses. However, the extremely strong magnetosphere contributes to a large number of satellite moons, some of which are similar in size to terrestrial planets, albeit with liquid CO2.
In other words, the planet is huge, but it is largely gas and atmosphere compared to actual land in the center. The land would be incredibly dense (so lots of gravity), but very compressed because of that.
The moons here would be a lot like what I described for the Dense Turbulent planets, except that this whole planet and its moons are substantially closer to the sun, and thus warmer. Additionally, the strong magnetosphere of this planet also causes a lot of warmth and energy to be transferred to the moons, making them even more habitable.
Some believe that the best potential source of life in our solar system is actually Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. I would think that the race originating on this planet would live on a moon like Titan, which would be much larger than Earth. As they became more advanced, they would then spread both to other moons and to the planet surface itself. The stuff on the planet surface would be invisible under all the atmosphere, though, while the atmosphere of a Titan-like moon would be kind of like Earth’s.
Saturn! Slightly smaller gas giant with a scorching interior under a semi-dense atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. Multiple satellite rings of ice and rock align with its equator, in which large numbers of semi-habitable moons can be found.
Those rings are made up of huge numbers of chunks of rock and ice and all sorts of other things. We keep discovering moons so fast around Saturn that we can’t keep up naming them all. And there are way more than we have actually found, hidden in all the trash that builds up there.
I think that life on the moons would be possible, in just the right circumstances, but frequent collisions with other orbiting debris would really make that something where large-scale life would die out repeatedly. I’m not sure how to reconcile that -- whatever moon had large life would have to be extremely lucky for a very long period of time. Then again, all life is unlikely until it happens, so there is that. :)
All that said, both hydrogen and helium are pretty interesting elements, and the planet itself would have that sort of thing in abundance, as noted. The atmosphere wouldn’t be quite so dense as some of the other gas giants, and the planet’s surface would still be massive by Earth standards (100+ earths at least).
There aren’t any organisms that could live in that sort of atmosphere, but then again living in oxygen was once something that nothing on our planet could do. Oxygen was a poisonous gas that various plant-like things started giving off in abundance, and they poisoned our entire atmosphere with this horrible gas as they broke down the carbon dioxide that life prior to that lived on. So then some new life evolved that could use the oxygen to sustain itself, and eventually the planet filled up with a mix of oxygen-users (us, animals, lots of microbial things) and original-style CO2 users that emit that oxygen (plants, microbial things).
It’s funny what the definition of “poison” can become, it’s all relative. Anyway, so despite the atmosphere on this planet being “poison” by our standards, both hydrogen and helium are basic elements that could be burned (as we know) and that probably could be used in life in some form. I’m no expert, but it seems plausible.
So let’s say that there’s some sort of strange civilization that lives on the planet’s surface, seeing the majestic ring up in the sky above them. They’d be at home in the normally-hostile atmosphere, but of a very different form of life than us. In order to develop things like electricity and so forth, though, they would likely need to eventually separate that from all that volatile gas around them. So maybe there are tons of domes on the planet, with a subspecies under them that started using something other than hydrogen/helium for life.
For instance, maybe originally there were caves where the hydrogen/helium consumers started putting off some other sort of gas that was poisonous to them, and another set of races started developing to live off that gas instead. Might even be oxygen again! To get back to the surface, this theoretical race would need some sort of shielding (just as we need that to go into our upper atmosphere). Big clear shield bubbles with cities under them would be pretty interesting visually.
The coldest subzero temperatures in the solar system. Barren of all life, and basically snowbound. In our solar system, we call these "trans Neptunian objects" They are too small to be considered true planets, and Pluto is among these.
Some of these are not more than a few times larger than our moon, so the curvature of them is really apparent at all times. There is also no atmosphere at all. This gives an incredible feeling of vertigo while you are on the surface, as if you are always standing about 200m away from a precipice that just falls away into empty outer space.
Gravity would be strangely low, and even light would hit this area in a really diffuse, low sort of fashion because it is so far from the sun. Solar collectors really are not effective here, because not enough sunlight reaches here (light from the sun goes in all directions, but it is a point source and so the further away you get from it, the less light directly reaches you from that source since it is spreading out in all directions. Think of a circular sprinkler and standing right next to it versus 3m away from it. You get soaked in one case, and mildly splattered in the other.)
Most planetoids of this sort would frankly be uninhabitable by anyone, period. So for life to exist here, there would have to be a very dense radioactive core, like Earth has, that would provide internal subsurface warmth. Given the small size of this planetoid, the core would have to be very dense and the race would need to be naturally raditation-resistant, able to repair damage to their DNA as gamma rays cause cuts to their strands. It would be super harsh.
Domes themselves would not be all that useful, because there would not be much going on at the surface worth being up there for. There also would be no protection at all from cosmic background radiation, which is much more destructive than the raditation from the planetoid’s core is likely to be. So any surface buildings are likely to be opaque and protective. That said, they are also likely to be extremely black, reflecting as little light as possible (none if possible), so that the light that does reach the buildings is absorbed into the buildings as heat. It’s a small source of heat, but on such a planet that would be desirable.
For the purposes of population expansion, the races would try to expand upwards off the planet’s surface. This would be extremely easy due to the incredibly low gravity. They could build all sorts of structures that would instantly collapse on earth. That said, these structures would have to be hardy enough to withstand frequent collisions with small asteroids and ice chunks, because those are frequent out in the ice belt. Additionally, they would need to be cross-reinforced enough that if a larger asteroid takes out part of the structure, the entire thing doesn’t collapse.
This would probably lead to some sort of crazy latticework with various larger pods and things in locations throughout it. They’d likely also have lots of monitoring equipment around so that when an asteroid that is too large is incoming, a given pod can be evacuated before it is destroyed. Or I guess they could use guns to destroy it. Probably a mix of both, just to be safe, if they are good engineers (which they would have to be).
For heat-absorption purposes, they would try to maximize the surface area of the outward-facing parts of the buildings. If you think about how circumference works, this means that they would not really have much in the way of ground-level buildings. They’d build a complex latticework outwards and then have very flat sorts of buildings further from the surface in order to get the most light energy as possible. Granted, purely for expansion purposes they would not want to waste the space under that outer layer and so there would be stuff down there too -- but probably more utility/storage areas compared to living areas.
These are basically like Neptune. The surfaces of these are home to the fastest windspeeds in the solar system, as well as the most common storms. Atmospheric pressure that is nearly 100 times as high as a terrestrial planet. Excellent mining prospects, but very difficult to live here.
Anything humans have ever built would be instantly crushed on the surface here, and the worst hurricanes on our planet would be like the lightest brush of a bare breeze in comparison to the storms here.
These are also way out in the ice belt, and so you’d think they would be cold -- but the extreme pressure would probably actually lead to quite an immense heat at the surface. So I guess the temperature variant from the outer atmosphere (which is massive) to the surface would be huge. I am not sure.
Oh, and these things are incredibly massive. Like 300 earths or something along those lines.
I don’t really think that any sort of recognizable life could evolve on a planet like this, and it would be an incredibly advanced race to be able to settle here. More advanced than any of our races. But that’s okay! There are tons of moons around planets like these, and some of the moons themselves are multiple times as large as earth.
The funny thing about a moon out here is that it has a couple of things happening to it. For one, it has pretty well all the temperature problems of an Ice Dwarf planet. But not much else in common! It has this giant planet right near it that it is orbiting. A very energetic planet. Very likely there would be enough radiation off of the planet that it could support quite a bit more life on its moons compared to an ice dwarf.
And additionally, there would be more gravitational forces at work on such a moon. So you can’t build up too far, or actually the things you build get sucked up off the moon and over to the planet! The moon actually would get smaller in mass every time there was a volcanic eruption, because the ash and lava would get sucked over to the planet!
The moon could have a pretty well-defined atmosphere, though, because again this is a moon that is vastly larger than earth. So space is not a real concern, unlike the ice dwarf. Most likely the buildings on a moon like this would be lower and very sturdy, trying to avoid getting caught in the gravity of the planet.
Cosmic radiation likely wouldn’t be much of a problem because of the atmosphere here, and the protection of the nearby planet. The planet would practically fill the skyline of the surface of the moon (about ¾ of the sky, probably). So aside from temperature fluctuations, you could probably walk around on the surface here. Some surface life could evolve here I bet, but it would be extremely tough and hardy. Any birds or similar that fly around here would be very muscular and would fly low to avoid getting sucked into space.
There would also be pretty strange geographic features, like lakes of carbon dioxide that would periodically erupt into icy-like geysers that partly get sucked over to the planet. There wouldn’t be any actual water on the surface itself. It would be a very strange vista indeed.