Terranova: Planet of the Day

Welcome to Terranova, your on-line Planet of the Day.

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There are about 200 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Over the next million years our descendents will spread among the stars in an exponential explosion of life, remaking the galaxy as surely as life has remolded Earth in its own image.

Let's be conservative, and assume that only one star in 100 has a planet capable of being made into a habitable world, and that only star systems with such planets are ever occupied. That means 2 billion barren planets upon which to sow the seeds of life, or 2000 per year for the next million years—about five a day. Life grows geometrically, so the rate of expansion will be slow at first but will inexorably compound into a spherical wavefront of life propagating outward at a substantial fraction of the speed of light. As the settlement of the galaxy builds toward the crescendo, there will come a time when a new habitable planet is created every day, then even faster until the galaxy is everywhere alive. And, if our distant descendants are no more imaginative than we, about 75% will be probably named “New Earth”: Terranova.

Imagine the variety of worlds and wealth of living species flourishing upon them! Water worlds, desert planets, mountains that reach above the sky—every habitat imagined in science fiction will become real, and many more yet to spring from the imagination of world-makers born half a million years from now.

Terranova is a highly premature anticipation of this exhilarating milestone in the endless adventure of life and intelligence. Every day around 11 a.m. Universal Time a new planet is created using random parameters, and an image of it, as seen from the bridge from your approaching starship, is produced. Imagine yourself gazing down on another living world and wondering how its people had shaped their world, and the world her people.

You can also view yesterday's Planet of the Day as a large or small image.

If you're interested in how the images are generated, please consult the details.

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by John Walker