Gamers' Corner


Life on Telluric Planets

Written by David Schatzman

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What does it eat in winter?

Good question. Yet the concept behind the word telluric is very intuitive, so I shall expose it before we continue on the topic. Basically, there is two types of planets. The first type is known as giant gases, such as Jupiter, Saturn and the like. They are the larger type by much and, as their name tells, mostly composed of gases which composes their huge atmospheres.

This type of planet is not very interesting for roleplayers and writers in general, so we'll focus on the second type, the telluric ones. Obviously, Earth is a telluric planet, as well as Mars, Venus, Mercury... moons could also fit the profile should they revolve around the sun instead of another planet. Those are much smaller than giant gases, more dense, with a thin or no atmosphere at all. They also have other interesting characteristics which do affect a science-fiction universe. Consider this a guide to build credible planets and to deal with issues concerning life on their surfaces.

Technical Overview
First, I will insist that planetary systems are commonplace in the universe, no matter the actual controversy.

Generally, telluric planets tend to be closer to the star they revolve around than giant gases. Our solar system is a good example of this, although we know one planet, Pluto, to be telluric and the farest of all planets of all.

Planets tend to revolve all in the same direction, and to rotate in that very same direction. Also, the nearer the planet is, the least it is susceptible to rotate fast. Mercury barely rotates at all.

Finally, the smaller the star, the closer to the star the planets will revolve. From this statement we shall deduce that planets revolving around a small star are more susceptible to revolve slowly if at all, which issue we'll come back later as it is very important for terraforming.

The closer to the star the planet revolve, the hotter is. So it is less encline to have an atmosphere, let alone liquid on its surface.

Mercury has neither oceans or atmospheres because it is too hot and besides, it is too small to retain an atmosphere. Venus does not have oceans because water as well as any other potential liquid evaporate, and therefore constitute its atmosphere.

On the other hand, Mars is so cold oceans are frozen to the poles, while is is still not cold enough for the atmosphere to turn liquid (although it is unlikely to happen in any context).

The most common atmosphere composition is of carbon dioxyd and methane. Observations suggest this could also have been the case on Earth, but life self-regulated an atmosphere suited to its need. It therefore suggests life is unlikely to appear in such contexts. However, the debate remains open on whether or not those planets are dynamically dead and this is the logical result of the planet's evolution.

Life on the Surface
This is not about the apparition of life, but the factors concerning the subsistance of an ecosystem. This may look from the Eden to something much more sterile ; sentient species will no doubt adapt to any ground if their interests lie there.

Is gravity adapted? Small planets or nonetheless not enough massive ones may not have suficient gravity for life to be practical or safe. In such cases it may be dangerous for health the same way as it is when one spends too much time with no gravity at all, such as in orbit. On those planets journeys may be short and temporary, say, as a place for workers extracting ore. Otherwise the population would have to deal with this issue.

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