110 planets

June 4, 2018

I need to lay some groundwork for The Helion Chronicles because my “science” is probably going to shock some people.

There is a great deal of the science in these stories that is absolutely made up. They are science fiction set thousands of years in the future so I didn’t feel the need to make them play entirely by our rules.

That being said, the core science that inspired me absolutely is real. And it’s likely the one most people will argue with.

There are 110 planets in our solar system.

That’s right. Pluto is a planet.

And so are 109 other astral bodies floating around our solar system.

I’m totally not even making that up. Back in February, 2017 I read an article in Universe Today about a group of planetary scientists who define planets based on geophysical properties.

“The IAU definition is useful to planetary astronomers concerned with the orbital properties of bodies in the Solar System, and may capture the essence of what a ‘planet’ is to them. The definition is not useful to planetary geologists. I study landscapes and how landscapes evolve. It also kind of irked me that the IAU took upon itself to define something that geologists use too.

“The way our brain has evolved, we make sense of the universe by classifying things. Nature exists in a continuum, not in discrete boxes. Nevertheless, we as humans need to classify things in order to bring order out of chaos. Having a definition of the word planet that expresses what we think a planet ought to be, is concordant with this desire to bring order out of chaos and understand the universe.”

– Kirby Runyon

I like these guys – that they’re not willing to play by someone else’s rules or let someone else define things for them. And I like the idea of 110 planets a lot. My nephew once observed that I like small things. Small phones, small purses, small houses. I’m never going to be that writer who constructs the highest, biggest building ever or monstrous cities. Seriously, my fairy tale castle is only 4 stories and just broad enough to shelter like 100 people. I’m not going to write sci-fi that expands into the vastness of our galaxy or the entire universe.

When I learned I now have 110 planets within the boundaries of our solar system to play with my imagination caught fire. I created the world of The Helion Chronicles where we’d expanded out, but not too far, created an industry of terraforming planets and moons, formed new civilizations and cultures on each of those worlds and even reinvented this world.

Granted, I still take some artistic license. These 110 planets are likely within the asteroid belt and Kuiper belt. They’re smaller than the bodies the IAU defines as “dwarf planets” (like Pluto and Eris) and they likely don’t have moons orbiting them. I like that they’re small, but some of the worlds in the Helion Chronicles do have moons, even if they probably shouldn’t. Because it works better for the narrative in some places if I have close, and even interdependent societies. Moons facilitate that well. Binary planets also work. So I play with the characteristics of these planets some. Because as much as I like the science, it’s still fiction.

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2 responses to “110 Planets

    • Annie

      thanks! It’s so much fun finding real world oddities or interesting things to play with in our writing. You never know what you’re going to stumble on 🙂