Gliese 581g (Hámnù, Pedak, Gaustan, or Estivama)

I finished a big new map! You can purchase a print here.

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The world known to humankind as Zarmina (catalog identifier Gliese 581g) is a habitable planet orbiting a red dwarf star. It is tidally locked to its dim sun, such that one face of the planet always points toward the sun. The most striking consequence of this orbit geometry is that the habitable region of the planet is a disk-shaped area roughly the size of an earthly continent. The center of this zone always sees a sun at high noon, while toward the edge of the disk, the sun sinks gradually away from zenith. Outside this region, Zarmina is encased in ice. As the sun does not define east and west, the cardinal direction convention on Zarmina refers to the planet’s orbit, instead: prograde (in the direction of the orbit), retrograde, normal (up from the orbit), and antinormal.

Zarmina does not exhibit evidence of plate tectonics. Surface features express several processes: large-scale rift graben form from tidal stresses, shield volcanoes build over mantle hotspots, impact craters and basins dot the planet, and erosion slowly whittles down the more ancient features.

The world hosts life with biodiversity similar to the Earth. One dominant intelligent species has settled across the landmass, with cultures reaching technological development levels roughly equivalent to 1300-1600 CE on Earth. There are three regions with large populations, indicated on the map in normal-retrograde (NR), antinormal-prograde (AP), and normal-prograde (NP) callouts. In the four major language families of Zarmina, the natives call their world Hámnù, Pedak, Gaustan, or Estivama.

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The NR region hosts two major linguistic and cultural families. The first is an empire ruled from the city of Hòmp Sīnkà (Port Sinka). Explorers and artisans populate this empire; though the political extent of the empire only reaches as far as Níngtòhús (Greencliff), speakers of the imperial language can be found all along the coast in the prograde direction as well as in coastal settlements on the other side of Fíkùm Pòst (The Normal-Direction Sea). The antinormal borders of the empire are more ragged and contentious, however – the imperial urge to spread its vision of culture and knowledge brings it into direct conflict with the city-states in that area. The people of Kivod Sev Adoso (Mountain Gate Town) dominate the substantial resources of Sev Skem (Mountain Channel) and have repelled several campaigns launched from Hútpòkā (Chasmtop). Hòmp Sīnkà rapidly loses its stomach for these campaigns, and so Kivod Sev Adoso holds back imperial expansion. A more fluid and contentious collision of cultures occurs in Pasken Gimet (Pasken Forest). Scattered settlements under the command of local chiefs raid imperial populations farming antinormal of Ngùsì Āmā (Wide River) while imperial reprisals prevent the Pasken peoples from incorporating large towns. The disparate kindgoms of Ogjapud (Grayrock), Katofa Petang (Retrograde City), and Fetva Zand (Calm Peninsula) maintain their own set of animosities and alliances.

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The plains of the AP region offer little shelter from the winds that blow in off the ocean. As the land rises, larger and larger plants cover the land until one encounters lush prairies between dendritic river networks. Roaming clans live on the prairie “kidan.” A few large settlements dot the kidan, most notably Jung a Uid Nakaun (the City of Two Rivers). The kida clans take pride in not pinning themselves to a particular place – many of their dwellings are portable, and they happily move their crops to new locations on the fertile plains when they tire of the old. The culture is leery of townfolk. The Ushtin clan is a splinter from the kida clans, and is more attached to their resource-rich homeland on the shore of Gaiju a Shai (Lake of Wind). On the other end of the cultural spectrum, the dramatically different Togui a Awaish (Chasm of the Forest) hosts a sect worshipping the sun god Dautwai. This sect possesses the settlements of Santiso (roughly, Above-the-Green) and Uigonja (named for the uigon trees), as well as a major urban center in Jung Togunau. From the isthmus of the Nakau Dautwai, dramatic views of the Audos a No (Mountain of the Sun) have inspired monuments throughout the city. The natural defenses of Togui a Awaish shield the people within from raiding kida clansmen.

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Lush lands and geographic barriers squeezed into a comparatively smaller area give rise to the warring city-states of the NP region. Though they share a common linguistic root, each of the population centers here represent separate nations. The largest are Evinbok and Neka Estag, both named for their original monarchs. Evinbok holds a position of strategic strength, with access to productive outlying farmland in Pantma Zhusti (the Upper Plains), while timber and easily quarried rock are in the ancient impact basin of Gesta Kazi (Broken Bowl). Kagzai (roughly, Blue-ton) and Ka Topi (Lower Town) are notable for practicing a form of representative democracy. Ka Shata Besi (High Cliff Town) is the center of a prosperous small nation of traders, who build ships from the timber of Tifa ko Pantma Shti (Forest of the Red Plain) and sail through Vimna Shti (Red Pass) as far antinormal as Sot Ushtin.

This map is hand-drawn with Pigma Micron pens of various types, then colored in Derwent watercolor pencils. I finish the map by painting over the pencils to blend and soften the watercolors together. The last step is photographing the piece with a 60 mm macro lens. The entire thing is 17″ wide and 14″ tall.

Enjoy, everybody!

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2 Responses to Gliese 581g (Hámnù, Pedak, Gaustan, or Estivama)

  1. Zeph says:

    A few techie Q’s: What causes meaningful tidal stress on a tide-locked world? How can a culture at that level of development detect the prograde direction with their sun in a fixed location and permanently hiding the stars? What is weather like with no diurnal cycle, no seasons, and high temp differential from sunside to darkside?

    (Or are there a kind of seasons caused by a significant eccentricity of the orbit – which would probably also cause annual wobble in the tidal lock)

    Unless you can come up with a way to detect prograde in these circumstances, I would imagine local directions are in terms of axes towards/away from the sun, and 90 degrees to the left/right of the sun. Breaks down where the sun is too high, obviously. Such a coordinate system would be very messy for long distances – it’s sort of like polar coordinates, but with no way to determine the absolute angle. Eventually somebody would discover that moving steadily clockwise (eg: keep the sun off your right shoulder) one will eventually come back to where one began – and that the distance it takes to complete the circle depends on how low the sun is. But that could take a long time to discover, as you have to be far enough from the middle (where sun at zenith) to get an accurate sun elevation and direction.

    This lack of a solid direction reference would make mapping extremely challenging.

    If you want them to have better directions, maybe there needs to be another star close enough by to be seen in daylight, and which thus gives another direction reference. It would trace a big annual hoop in the sky, the visible portion of a circle around the normal to the planet’s solar orbit. The the rising/setting point would provide another key direction, and the time of year that happens would provide an angular coordinate.

  2. Joseph says:

    Hi, Zeph! Your first two technical questions could easily be answered if there are other planets in the system. The inhabitants of the tidally locked world could see some other planets in their sky, even in the daytime – think of Venus. Observing the motion of those planets would give a reference for prograde and retrograde motion. The presence of other planets could also tug the orbit of the tidally locked world so that it has a slight eccentricity. Even the smallest eccentricity to the orbit could cause huge tidal stresses. This is what happens on Jupiter’s moon Europa, which I took as inspiration for the tidal stress features here!

    As for weather, I am less sure, because I don’t have a background in global circulation modeling. But I imagine that the air would tend to rise at the subsolar point and sink at the antisolar point, so the prevailing winds on this world would come from the outside of the habitable disk to the center. There probably wouldn’t be seasons or cyclonic storms as we have on Earth, but I imagine there would be the full range of rain and sun depending on the vagaries of the wind each day.

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