Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stars of Other Worlds: Iota Horologii

Every once in a while, Acts of Minor Treason takes a jaunt through subspace and hyperspace and across cosmic strings and collapsars to some strange new world, to set up a telescope and look up at the stars from a new angle.

When a friend asked where I found the tribble, I answered, "Iota Horologii IV. Where did you think I found it?" That story held up until the stark, terrifying realization that tribbles are from Iota Geminorum IV. My hyperspace nav had a few fresh dents the next day, I can tell you. Still, I can assure you that while there are no tribbles to be found in the Iota Horologii system, it is theorized to be the site of Installation 04, the Forerunner ringworld destroyed by Master Chief in the original Halo.

You've probably never heard of Iota Horologii. Hell, you've probably never heard of the constellation Horologium, unless you're one of my few Southern Hemispheran readers. To put it simply, Horologium is supposed to be a clock but looks nothing like one, and Iota Horologii is a G0V yellow dwarf star broadly similar to Sol, 56.2 light-years away. Its Wikipedia article calls it a "solar twin" like HD 98618, but since the evidence suggests Iota Horologii is less than seven hundred million years old, that's really straining the term. Nevertheless, it's interesting enough that it was #69 on the Terrestrial Planet Finder's list of stars, until that potential observatory was eviscerated on the table.

What it does mean, though, is that unless the Precursors tore through and terraformed the place, it's highly unlikely there's any life more complex than microbes in the Iota Horologii system. However, one planetary companion has been detected, and like 55 Cancri f it orbits within the star's habitable zone. It could be that for extrasolar colonies, moons are where it's at after all. In the end, if anyone's going to be looking at its constellations any time soon, they'll probably be human or of human descent.

The images presented here include all stars with an apparent magnitude of 6.4 or greater. 6.5 is the limit for visibility to the naked eye under perfect conditions. Also, unlike previous Stars of Other Worlds segments, I've consolidated the unlabelled and labelled constellations into individual images here. If you've got any comments on which format you prefer, giving them would be totally rad.

Triangulum Magnum

If the Precursors had terraformed a world in Iota Horologii, and they'd scooped up some Atlanteans or Tartessians or other "ancient magical societies" to settle there, they'd probably see significance in this pattern of stars. Perhaps this is the True Mystic Triangle, and when it is high in the sky a wizard can tap Power unimaginable.

Or maybe it's just three bright stars that stand out in a recognizeable pattern, taking up about the same chunk of sky as Orion.

There's also a bit of honest astronomical interest to this constellation. Chi Eridani at the top is, with a separation of 7.29 light-years, Iota Horologii's closest known stellar neighbor. What's more, with an apparent magnitude of -0.78, it's brighter than all Earth's night sky stars but Sirius, and is the second-brightest star in Iota Horologii's sky; only Canopus outshines it.

Nevertheless, I can understand that while a triangle's a natural shape, it's also boring. There are plenty of other things Triangulum Magnum COULD be, after all - a d4! A pyramid! Alternatively, add Beta Capricorni into the design and you've got yourself a poorly-made Shofixti Scout.

The Penitent Knight

I keep coming back to the stars of Orion out of a sort of "repertory theatre" view of the sky: some stars will always have the important roles. From Iota Horologii their pattern's hardly as obvious and striking as HD 98618's Heavenly Scimitar, but I wasn't about to let that stop me. I've done far too many constellations that actually resemble what they're supposed to be; as far as I'm concerned, the Penitent Knight is one of those "just take my word for it" constellations, just like back home!

See, this is how it goes. Delta Orionis forms his head, and Zeta, Epsilon, and Eta Orionis his neck and shoulders. Rigel, just slightly brighter than it appears from Earth, is the foot on which he's kneeling, and Mu Leporis, Kappa Orionis, and Beta Leporis make his other leg. Theta1 Orionis C and Iota Orionis form the scabbard for his sword. Some may say that it could be longer, but they are sadly mistaken and wrong. What Celestia doesn't reflect here is the presence of the Orion Nebula; in Iota Horologii's real sky, it would be centered around the scabbard stars.

You may notice that Betelgeuse, the blood-red second-brightest star of Orion, is not in this picture. It's actually out of frame, "above" Delta Orionis, where it is busy chilling with Bellatrix. The same stars can't all hang out together all the time, you know.

The Great Fish of the Galaxy

This ain't your father's Pisces.

Originally this constellation was to be known as the Trumpet of Stars, because that's what I first saw when I saw it, and I would just have explained it away as having been named by someone who didn't really know what a trumpet was other than "thing with big horn," and who was probably thinking of a tuba anyway.

It wasn't until I'd made the lines that I realized what else they made. It vaguely resembles an ichthys, and reminds me of the fish cutouts I'd make on construction paper, glue googly eyes to, and present to my mom as if I'd personally fished them out of Kempenfelt Bay. That it's "swimming" in the visible galaxy only made it more appropriate.

Like Sagittarius, most of the Great Fish of the Galaxy's stars can be found very near to the galactic core as viewed from Iota Horologii. It's not the most striking in the sky - its brightest member, Epsilon Sagittarii, has an apparent magnitude of 1.83, with the rest generally second- or third-magnitude stars - but, unlike the Penitent Knight, it actually looks like what it's supposed to be. Presumably, in myth and legend, it is the trickster rival of the Great Bird of the Galaxy.

Though, now that I look at it again, it could just as easily be a caricatured Apollo service module.

Incidentally, there's just one more thing I wanted to show you - not a constellation. But it's something that's always at the back of my mind. Remember, fifty-six light-years is a long,



Distant Stars of Other Worlds
Thank you for reading this far! Be advised that you can now reach this weblog through a new URL, It is all mine, ALL MINE!

1 comment:

  1. Nice entry despite your geeky way of tell the story everything else is ok for me. please post more as soon as posible