Per Ardua Ad Astra
Chapter 26: Tau Ceti
Copyright© 2013 by normist
Tau Ceti has or had been believed to have five planets. We performed our planet finding ritual and increased that number to ten. The habitable zone was supposed to lie between the orbits of planets four and five. However it proved to be bit broader than had been previously thought.
Planet four had small areas of open water and the land was mainly desert. There were patches of lush vegetation, and we could see signs of a monsoon. It was not long before we had completed our initial survey. Most of the vegetation appeared to be fern-like. Other than that there seemed to be little of interest to us. We decided to leave further exploration of planet four to others.
As we approached planet five, we were surprised to detect far more heat than we were expecting. There was a considerable amount of gray cloud cover. Thomas Long and I took a shuttle down to about five hundred feet above sea level through a gap in the clouds. We were surprised that the water temperature was only ten degrees Celsius. Turning towards the land, we approached it with caution.
The land glistened with a network of bright orange lines as lava flowed all over the surface. As it poured into the sea, it hissed in a horrible manner. We turned to follow the coast. The volcanic conditions continued for hundreds of miles. Eventually we reached some land that was cool enough to support plant life.
As we approached we saw that the land suddenly split and more molten lava welled up through the cracks. We'd had enough, and flew upwards through the cloud cover to return to 'Endeavour'.
We docked the shuttle and proceeded to the bridge. I called a meeting to discuss our findings. The upshot was that we would conduct a radar mapping of the planet, then continue on our journey, The survey showed that some sixty-five per cent of the planetary surface suffered from vulcanism.
The next star system on our itinerary was Epsilon Indi. It lay some thirteen days travel from Tau Ceti. We soon settled into the activities of travel over these excessive distances. The Marines under the command of their Corporal, Brian Jones, continued transcribing the Centauran encyclopedia into a computer graphical format before they passed them onto me to convert them into word processor files. Petty Officers Phyllis Hollis and 'Chubby' Chubb continued their efforts in learning to translate the documents. Between us we were beginning to produce the encyclopedia in English.
Lieutenant (JG) Thomas Long had produced computerized maps of the planets we had visited. Although in my mind, I was not sure of the value of the map of Tau Ceti Five, except to determine how great the effect of tectonics were on the planet.
Phyllis's primer in the Centauran language was making progress. There was feedback between the groups working on the different aspects. For example, the groups were using the font that I had derived from the various sources: the school videos, the encyclopedias and the dictionaries. One of the problems that had occurred to me was whether to order the thirty characters of the Centauran alphabet in their native order or in the order to correspond to the sounds of the terrestrial alphabet. I decided to go with the order the Centaurans used and write a program to translate their writings into terrestrial characters.
It was almost an anticlimax when we arrived at the Epsilon Indi System. Planet scanning discovered ten planets, an asteroid belt between planets five and six and a cometary belt on the outer limit of the system. The habitable zone existed from forty one to eighty one per cent of the distance of the earth to the sun. Planet two fell almost in the center between these two limits. It was about ninety per cent of the size of the earth, which gave it a gravity of about three quarters of earth normal.
When we closed in to explore it further, we found about sixty per cent of the surface to be water. The land was mainly distributed between two continental islands, one a good bit larger than the other.
There were were no real surprises when we explored the smaller continent, and its outlying islands. It put me in mind somewhat of Australia. There were mountains near the coast on one side, coastal forests and interior scrub lands and deserts.
The larger continent was the surprise. It was positively Jurassic. Dinosaurs of many types were roaming freely. There were giant Sauropods up to about three hundred feet long. How do I know? Well, they were slow, almost stationary, while they were grazing on the vegetation. We approached, using a sextant until it subtended a right angle. Then we checked with a range finder. At a distance of one hundred and sixty five feet their length was twice this. Three hundred and thirty feet long! Wow!