The Jovian System in Space 1889


Role-Playing In a More Civilised Time
The official Space 1889 universe consists of Mercury, Venus, Earth, the Moon and Mars. It is stated in the official rules that the solar boilers that power the ether ships do not work due to being too far from the Sun when the ships get much beyond Mars. However,it occurred to me that an exploratory vessel with a secondary power system with its own fuel supply might make through the Asteroid Belt to the Jovian System, particularly with the invention of the steam turbine in the 1890s. In our world Sir Charles Parsons built the SS Turbinia and disrupted the Spithead Review in 1894. In the Space 1889 Universe he could have followed that up with a trip to Jupiter.

In reality, the Jovian moons are frozen, airless uninhabitable worlds but Space 1889 is the universe of scientific romances where Mars, Venus and even Mercury are habitable. Could the Jovian satellites be habitable in this universe?

I remember years ago reading a late Victorian encyclopedia that asserted as fact that Jupiter was the temperature of red-hot iron. This would mean it was roughly 600 degrees Celcius or a little under 900K. If this was so a world 210,000 miles from Jupiter would receive the same amount of heat fromJupiter as Earth does from the Sun. Unfortunately, this is still well inside the orbit of Io, the innermost Galilean satellite. However, this calculation assumes that Jupiter is the only source of heat. My back of the envelope calculations tell me that factoring in the radiance from the Sun will result in Europa at 417,000 miles being at roughly Earth-like temperature.

Miles, by the way, are insisted upon; this is Queen Victoria’s Interplanetary Empire. We’ll be having none of your continental kilometres.

All of the Galileans are tidally locked. Atmospheres will allow the redistribution of heat somewhat but the farsides will be much cooler than the Jupitersides. They will still experience day and night as most visible light they receive will come from the Sun. The diurnal cycles will however be very long: 42 hours for Io, 85 hours for Europa, 171 hours for Ganymede and 400 hours for Callisto. Furthermore, because the Jovian system is over five times as far from the Sun as is Earth, even at high sunlit noon the light level will be roughly that of a heavily overcast day on Earth.

So what will our intrepid voyagers find?

1. The Asteroid Belt

Probably not much of interest unless your PCs have a liking for airless rocks. Spacesuits are available. They are adapted old-style diving suits – complete with air pumped from the ship via a hose.

It was a given of pulp and earlier SF that the Belt is crowded with rocks of all sizes. An encounter with a meteor swarm was an inevitable experience in traversing the asteroid belt.

2. The outer satellites

Prior to the twentieth century, human beings were completely unaware of the existence of these bodies. They are almost certainly captured asteroids and even if the explorers spot them, they will find little different to asteroids in the main belt.

3. Callisto

Callisto is a frozen snowball of a world. The only part above the freezing point of water is a region of tundra about five-hundred miles in diamiter where Jupiter is at zenith. There is no life more advance than insects and most of that lives in the ponds and marshes that dot the region. The top predator is an aquatic arthropod that looks like a cross between a shrimp and a praying mantis. It is three inches long.

There are rock formations that have too many straight lines to be entirely natural and there is fossil evidence of more advanced life-forms in Callisto’s past.

4. Ganymede

Most of Ganymede’s surface is dry land but there are two land-locked seas (one a little larger than the Mediterranean, the other perhaps three times that). There are fertile regions around the seas and the rivers that flow into them but much of Ganymede is desert with a climate not unlike Mars (Space 1889 version!).

There are humans on Ganymede. They are olive-skinned and somewhat Oriental in appearance. The largest political entity is the Bright Empire of Perushtar which rules approximately a fifth of the moon. The capital is on a large island in the Great Sea. Technologically they are roughly at a level of 11th century Western Europe.

Their only serious rival is the mountain kingdom of Donastar. The area directly under the control of the King of Donastar is roughly the size of Switzerland but much larger areas pay tribute. Donastar is able to enforce this as liftwood grows in the mountain valleys and so they consequently have an air force. The skyships are propelled by rear facing foot cranked propellors. Fighting vessels can manage an airspeed of over 15 miles per hour but freighters are much slower. Both states are on Jupiterside, though Perushtar does extend into Farside. There are numerous other tiny statelets scattered around the northern hemisphere, mainly Jupiterside. The staple crop is a variety of barley and the only domestic animals are goats, pigs, chickens and dogs. Rats are not exactly unknown. All other life-forms on Ganymede are plainly non-terrestrial.

The dry southern hemisphere and much of Farside is the domain of a second intelligent species. These look like insectile centaurs. Closer examination shows that they have four body segments not three. The upper thorax carries four arms (which end in gripping claws not hands and there are four legs on the lower thorax. Breath-holes are in the abdomen and the lungs are located just below the abdominal shell. Other than walking on all-eights all other animal life is based on this structure. The Insect People are largely nomadic and have legends of a time when the whole world was theirs and there were no humans.

5. Europa

This moon is over 90% ocean. The land is in the form of scattered low-lying islands. The highest point is about 700 feet above sea-level. There is an intelligent amphibious species at a stone-age level of technology – this incudes stone-built towns on the sae-bed and the shores of some of the islands. Think Deep ones from Call of Cthulhu and you won’t go far wrong. In fact, go the whole hog and have them be Deep Ones. Europa would be an excellent location for the tentacle-faced on’s place of exile too.

There are polar ice caps which extend much closer to the equater on Farside than they do on Jupiterside. In fact, ice-fields are common throughout the Farside ocean.

6. Io

The surface of Io is dotted with active volcanoes. In addition Jupiterside is a scorching desert though Farside is somewhat more clement with numerous lakes and grasslands. There is an intelligent lizard-like species which is nomadic but has developed the ability to work iron.

7. Amalthea and the ring system

The faint ring and its accompanying moonlets will be a new discovery. Should the explorers choose to investigate it they will of course be in Jupiter’s radiation belts. Erratic behaviour of any electrical items on board should provide a clue that something is not right.

Actually, the radiation belts extend well past Europa but [arm-waving] the moons’ atmospheres and the ether wake generated by the ship while travelling will protect the explorers.[/arm-waving].

8. Jupiter

Red-hot gases. No solid surface. Any attempts to visit will be one-way.

The sky as seen from the Galileans

Although Jupiter is the primary heat source, the Sun is still the brightest object in the sky. In terms of size, however, Jupiter is paramount ranging from eight times the size of Luna as seen from Earth on Callisto to over 40 times in Io. From each Galilean, the other three will be visible as visible discs except when they are behind Jupiter. Actual size and phase will depend on relative orbital positions. The outer moons will only be visible as star-like points – and not very bright stars at that. Even from Io, Amalthea will only appear to be a bright star.


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