At the start of the reimagined TV-series, humanity populates a collection of worlds named the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. Then the Cylons – robots created by humanity who later rebelled and fled – return and nuke every planet, forcing the remaining survivors to take to the stars, searching for a new home (the fabled planet Earth), guided by the warship Galactica.
Now, we didn't get to see much of the Twelve worlds themselves, so naturally – as sci-fi geeks do naturally – there was some debate on how a solarsystem with twelve habitable worlds could be even remotely possible. The short-lived spin-off series Caprica didn't deliver us many answers either, only showing the titular world orbiting so close to Gemenon, you could see both worlds at the same time from orbit.
For comparison: Venus, our closest neighbouring planet, only appears as a small dot in the sky. So what the frak were the creators of the series trying to tell us? This is a question that keeps geeks awake at night, I kid you not.
With the above mentioned map QMx delivers us from our doubts, but raised a new question in my once-again-restless inner geek. Caprica and Gemenon apparently orbit each other, but whats going on with Aerilon, Hestia and Canceron? Three planets sharing the same orbit? Sure, this is sci-fi, but really?
The designers made us of a scientific phenomenon known as Lagrange points. A little explanation from the NewScientist website:
"When one body (such as a planet) orbits a much more massive body (a star), there are two Lagrange points along the planet's orbit where a third body can orbit stably. These lie 60 degrees ahead of and 60 degrees behind the smaller object."
Our own solarsystem has an example of this in the shape of the Trojans asteroid groups, which lie at Jupiter's Langrange points.
And a few days ago news broke that the planet-hunting Kepler telescope has observed a rather interesting system, dubbed KOI(short for Kepler Object of Interest)-730. Out of the four planets observed, two seem to be sharing the same orbit, cirling their parent star "every 9.8 days at exactly the same orbital distance, one permanently about 60 degrees ahead of the other". In other words, one of the planets is fixed at the other's Lagrange point! How nifty is that?
So, with science catching up with sci-fi once again (compare the Star Trek communicators with modern day cellphones for example), any chance we could have our first alien encounters any time soon?