Exactly where is the Planet Pax?


In Semiosis, our colonists wake up in orbit around a planet at star HIP 30815. Where is that? In the constellation Gemini. But let’s get more precise.

The above photo, which pinpoints the location, comes from In-the-sky.org, which offers guides to the night sky specific to your location. The site can be set to “night mode” so you can use it as you stargaze.

The “HIP” in the name refers to the Hipparcos Catalog, one of a great many lists of stars. The Hipparcos catalog was compiled from the data gathered by the European Space Agency’s astrometric satellite Hipparcos.

The number basically follows the order of the object’s right ascension, that is, its east-west coordinate starting at the March equinox. This is the celestial equivalent of terrestrial longitude, so the number is merely the star’s place in an ordered list.

The “f” designates the planet. By convention, planets are given letters in the order they are discovered. That means there are five other planets at star HIP 30815 (according to the novel, not current science, which hasn’t identified any so far).

You can get much more detailed scientific information about the star at Universeguide.com.

Sky-map.org offers photos and additional technical details, such as the variety of names the star has: HD 1989, HD 45506, TYCHO-2 2000, TYC 1328-38-1, USNO-A2 1050-03646671, BSC 1991, HR 2340, and HIP 30815.

Finally, here’s the passage from Chapter 1 of the novel that specifies the star:

We awakened, cold and dizzy, with our muscles, hearts, and digestive systems atrophied from the 158-year hibernation on a tiny spaceship. The computer had brought us into orbit, sent a message to Earth, then administered intravenous drugs.

Two hours later I was in the cramped cabin trying to sip an electrolyte drink when Vera, our astronomer, came flying in from the control module, her tightly-curled hair trailing like a black cloud.

“We’re at the wrong star!”

I felt a wave of nausea and despair.

Paula was spoon-feeding Bryan, who was too weak to eat, and she seemed calm, but her hand trembled. “The computer could pick another one if it was better,” she said.

“It did!” Vera said. “It is. Lots of oxygen and water. And lots of life. It’s alive and waiting for us. We’re home!”

We were at star HIP 30815f instead of HIP 30756, at a planet with a well-evolved ecology, and, I noted, abundant chlorophyll. The carbon dioxide level was slightly higher than Earth but not dangerous. Seen from Earth, both stars were pinpricks in the Gemini constellation near Castor’s left shin. As planned, we named the planet Pax, since we had come to live in peace.

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