Today we will take a look at one aspect of my Sci-Fi/Fantasy crossover series, the Aether Star Chronicles (ASC): the Known Universe. My first novel series follows a number of separate, but interwoven, storylines that has a stage spreading across the stars, literally!
I have always been fascinated with authors that add an element of realism into the story. Somewhat following in their footsteps, I have become a descriptive writer that also adds a splash of reality in my fiction writing. My hope in doing so is to inspire my readers to do their own research after reading my novels. Along those lines, the scientific inspiration of ASC came from factual terms and astrological locations, including the use of an actual map of our 'known universe'.
Maps mare an amazing tool humans have been using since we first started moving about. They help us understand where we are, where we are going and where we've been. In the ASC novel series, we find our characters referring to factual locations, star systems, and even a few planets that exist in the real world! These literary 'Easter eggs' give the readers an opportunity to expand their understanding of where we all are in the grand scheme of things and appreciate the various struggles of our beloved Sci-Fi characters.
Local Star Maps
In the chapter, "An Odd Briefing", we follow one of the protagonists, Solan, into a military mission briefing where a new, unknown, object has been discovered. Very quickly, our readers are thrown into the realization that we are not alone in the universe, and that it is, in fact, very, very large. In researching the information for this chapter, I started hitting the books. I looked up maps and details of not only our own solar system, the Sol System, but also the Milky Way galaxy, nearby galaxies, and beyond. Much like using a map when you go hiking or camping, especially to a new location, I started with what little space science information I knew: our home planet, Earth and its location in the Sol System. Here are some interesting facts I discovered right at the beginning. (PS: you can click on the highlighted words to learn more about each fact from the experts!):
Our Sun is a Yellow Star and its system is about 4.6 billion years old
The Sol System is about 2 Lightyears in diameter
Light from the Sun takes about 8 minutes to actually reach Earth
One year is a different length depending on which planet you are on
The nearest star to our system is Proxima Centuri, about 4.24 light-years away
There are billions of solar systems inside the Milky Way galaxy
You can learn more details about this list of stellar facts by going to the Astronomy Trek website.
Bonus: Here's a fun local map of our home system. This one looks like one of those helpful mall maps.
Map of the Known Universe
During the mission report in the chapter, "An Odd Briefing", we learn that the unusual object is whizzing around the known universe like a comet, and heading for the Milky Way. Though my writer's research I discovered a number of scientists have put together a number of maps showing us exactly how tiny we are in relation to what's out there. Here are the two maps that I used as references for this chapter.
The following map is using the same technology, but T. Jarrett from IPAC/Caltech added labels. FYI, this map is centered around us in the Milky Way, as if we were standing in the middle of the bubble, looking outward. Very COOL!
Maps can come in all shapes and sizes and help us navigate through the known and unknown. The next time you decide to take a far off trek through the stars, be sure to take one or two of these maps with you. Maybe a sack lunch and a sweater, too; in case you get lost!