Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cool Stuff From Kepler For Science Fiction Writers

A couple of days ago, I found a link to an interesting article on  The article/slide show focuses on the strangest alien planets found by the Kepler spacecraft/telescope.  Some of the worlds discovered could be particularly interesting for science fiction writers who want to include real science to add to the story credibility.  Here are a few examples of worlds from the slide show and how they could be used. 

  • Closest planet:  Epsilon Eridani b orbits an orange sun-like star only 10.5 light years away.  Whether your story uses faster-than-light (FTL) travel, near-light-speed, or stasis, you could reference such a world as a staging area for sending ships deeper into space.  A space station or planet-side outpost coule be used.  It could also be a staging area for an aggressive species planning to invade Earth.
  • A planet in Globular Cluster M4 is referenced as the oldest planet found - an estimated 8 billion years before Earth.  If you want to discuss more advanced races, an older planet is a good place to start, that way you don't have to get into debates on the speed of the evolutionary process.  They had a head start.
  • Fastest planet:  at only 740,000 miles from its sun, this planet makes its orbit every 10 hours.  I honestly couldn't say how to use it, but it just seemed too interesting not to mention.
  • Waterworld:  A hyperspace-hop, slipstream-skip, and warp-jump away at only 40 light years lies GJ 1214b.  Researchers believe that this planet (about 3X the size of Earth and over 6X as massive) is most likely a water world.  I shouldn't have to give the obvious suggestion that humans move to this world for the water.  It could be a good place to bring up aquatic alien life (sentient or otherwise).  But another possiblity is another staging area.  Load up on more water for consumption and/or splitting water atoms to take oxygen for life support and hydrogen for fuel.
  • Dying world:  WASP-18 is another world with a fast orbit - less than one Earth day and scientists theorize it could be orbiting closer to its star and impending doom.  This could be tied to lost civilization, planetary evacuation types of stories.  Encountering ships from the survivors.
  • Most Habitable:  Gliese 581 d.  Only about 20 light-years away this is apparently the world with the greatest possibility for being habitable.  It's about 8X as massive as Earth.  I googled for a bit more since I'd heard of Gliese 581 before and found similar stories about the Gliese 581 c possibly being habitable.  Note that 581c also has a quick orbit  - 13 days.  Again, obvious story-lines one could use include staging area for deeper space travel, colonization...  Consider the potential difficulty of colonizing a world with a short orbit.

Keep in mind that Kepler's mission is to search for Earth-sized/like worlds.  Some of these don't fit that description, but they're interesting nonetheless.


  1. This is super interesting. I had no idea that there was a world with so much water so close, relatively close. It gave me some ideas to run with.

  2. Thanks James,

    I'm thinking of referencing one or two of these in early chapters of my draft novel. I like adding real scientific theories into science fiction. It adds the type of scientific credibility that I think modern science fiction readers want.