Physical Geography

 

This section will deal with:

Size and area.

     Diameter.  Sphericity.  Surface area. 

Day and night.

Day/night cycle.  What the sky looks like.

The two hemispheres of Ooranye.

     Sunward.  Starward.

The interior of Ooranye.

     The ice mantle.  Mascons.

The plains and the mountains.

     The gralm.  Groves and forests.  The narps.  The monolines.             The Mountains of Flame.   The seas.

Environmental change.

     Stability.  The Great Winter.  The Foam.  

 

Size and area 

Ooranye is 25,011 miles in diameter.  Consequently, Ooranye's surface area, most of which is land, is 1,965,223,665 square miles - about ten times that of Earth, and over thirty times the land area of Earth.

Note: Ooranye is a perfect sphere (unlike the Earth whose polar diameter is 27 miles less than its equatorial diameter). 

Earth scientists are puzzled as to why Ooranye's axial rotation period is so slow.  If the planet were close to the Sun, it would be easy to understand why its spin should have been slowed by tidal drag until it was gravitationally locked to its parent body in this way.  But Ooranye is one of the outer planets, far too distant - one would have thought - for this to happen.  Perhaps, then, gravitational influence is not the cause; perhaps some other agency is responsible.  We know almost nothing of the history of Ooranye in previous Great Cycles, but we have become used to the idea that its civilizations can achieve the apparently impossible; perhaps some day we may discover that the present situation was artificially created.

 

Day and night

Since Ooranye's axial rotation period is the same as its orbital period, its solar day is the same length as its year, which is as long as most lifetimes (it is 84 of our years).  Such a "day" is not of much practical use.  Therefore, the term "day" on Ooranye is not employed in the astronomical sense.  Instead it is used to denote the thirty-hour cycle of the brightening and darkening of the air.  This is caused by a periodic glowing and dimming of micro-organisms (the throom ) suspended in the atmosphere, and present also in the tissues of much of the planet's plant life.

This pulsation of light and dark keeps the same time all over the world, which means that all Uranian clocks are synchronized; it is the same hour everywhere on the globe of Ooranye, so there can never be any need for "time zones" on that fortunate planet.

For an account of how the Uranian day is divided and its divisions named, see timekeeping.

 

The two hemispheres of Ooranye

As is natural for a world that has one side always facing the Sun, Ooranye's significant hemispheres are held to be, not the northern and the southern in our sense of those words, but the sun-facing and the one facing the other way.

As a matter of fact these are sometimes given the arbitrary terms "north" and "south", respectively.  Thus, the Sunward Polar City, Skyyon, is sometimes said to be at the "north" pole of Ooranye, and the mysterious land of Arclour, antipodeal to Skyyon, is said to be at the "south" Pole.  But we will usually try to use the terms Sunward and Starward instead of North and South.  

 

The interior of Ooranye

The planet's ice mantle extends most of the way down to the core.  The core itself, and many moon-sized globules within the mantle, consist of denser mass-concentrations ("mascons").  These can be of degenerate matter - as abnornally dense as that found in white dwarf stars, only cold; or of the pre-universal non-particulate matter called kolv; or of a compound of kolv and particulate matter known as gvo.  Occasionally, with the slow convection of aeons, a mascon may find its way to the surface and emerge as the tip of a globular mountain.  One of these, the so-called "Sun-Egg", played a key part in human history.

 

The plains and the mountains

The characteristic Uranian landscape is that of an immense plain.  The sense of awe and mystery aroused on Earth by its oceans, is aroused on Ooranye by the solid world-ocean of the plains.  These spaces are covered by a thin layer (usually a yard deep at most) of a semi-organic granular substance known as gralm .  Sometimes this is translated as "loam", but although plants can grow in it, it has nothing in common with Earth loam either in structure or in appearance.  The gralm is corky, very slightly springy to walk on, like a carpet.  Its colours vary among the range of cold hues - greys, blues, purples, browns. 

Perhaps two per cent of the plains are covered with forest, and in addition to the forests there are innumerable solitary groves, some of them formed by deadly narps, the long-living plants with laser-tipped stems, who can live for millions of days on the metal carcass of one downed skimmer.

Apart from the world-embracing plains there are "islands" of hilly or mountainous territory, and some huge chasms.  The Mountains of Flame cover thirty million square miles and include peaks twice as high as Everest. 

One physical change made by man to the physical geography of the plains, deserves mention in this section: the mighty monorail network built largely in the Zinc Era.  Perhaps 150,000 miles of track were laid down, on artificial embankments seven yards high.

Finally there are the rare "seas", actually giant lakes, whose slow-motion waves have been known to conceal submarine monsters and - in one case - monster submarines.

 

Environmental change

The giant planet Ooranye is much more capable of looking after itself than is comparatively fragile Mother Earth.  Hence, there has never been any need for Uranian "environmentalism". Mankind flourishes there up to a point but is never in any danger of dominating the planet.  The sheer physical challenge would be too great, and besides, man is just one of many Uranian intelligent species.  These considerations make for stability. 

Nature, also, is less violently prone to change on the seventh planet than she is on the third.  Apart from the slow convection which brings an occasional mascon to the surface, Ooranye does not have much in the way of an active crust.  The Jershan volcanoes pour forth floods of water rather than lava, and even these low-key eruptions are active mostly because of the rare events which ended the Bismuth Era - events which (it is hoped) are unlikely to be repeated.  (See Impostor).

We may here mention two further historical exceptions to this peaceful picture.  The Great Winter of the Titanium Era covered most of the civilized world in snow; and the Foam - the popcorn-like expansion of the gralm in the Lanthanum Era - even more deeply covered the main cities of Syoom.  The first of these disasters, though involving Nature, was by no means entirely natural in origin: the Winter was a retaliation by Fyayman powers for Nalre Zitpoidl's act of murder.  As to the Foam, we understand the physical mechanism involved, but we do not know the reason it occurred when it did; the possibility remains, in this case too, that human events - or reactions to those events - were somehow involved.

 

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