Sunday, June 15, 2008



I live in Brooklyn. Two weeks ago, we went to the Fulton Ferry Terminal, almost directly under the Brooklyn Bridge, to see the Telectroscope (and to wait in a 1/4 mile line in a heat wave to get a cone at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory). Last night, when the camera panned across the ruins of the Temple of Aurora and showed us that final shot of the remains of the bridge, I jumped up and said "The camera is standing on the site of the ice cream store!".

But that was when I believed that they had actually landed on Earth. Now I'm starting to have second thoughts.

What evidence do we have that this irradiated planet is really Earth? Lt. Gaeta, when checking to see whether the fleet had jumped to the right spot, said that the visible constellations are a match. But a match with what set of data? Lee said that they had "projected a course to the signal" and that it would probably take some revising. That tells me the Colonial beacon signal did not include a 3-d starmap. Is Gaeta checking the constellations with what the jump calculations predicted the resulting constellations should look like? That would only prove that they jumped to where they expected to jump -- it wouldn't prove that they had jumped to Earth.

Or is he comparing the visible constellations with the constellations they saw in the planetarium show back at the Temple of Athena on Kobol? It's hardly likely -- the display in the temple focused on the twelve constellations of our Zodiac. Lee spotted the Lagoon Nebula, and his father backed him up by calling it "M8" -- but did we see either of them record those constellations? (If it was a shared hallucination, was it even possible to have recorded the constellations? ) And if they did record the constellations, to what level of precision did they do so? I think it's much more likely that the pilots come out of the planetarium and, at best, drew the stick figures from memory. And if that's that happened, then Gaeta's comparison data are going to be literally sketchy.

The thing is, in our space neighborhood there are at least three other sunlike stars that possibly could support earthlike planets. If the fleet jumped into the Alpha Centauri system instead of ours, for example, that might fit Starbuck's recall of seeing a triple star system on her trip to "Earth". The Alpha Centauri system consists of Alpha Centauri A, a Type G star that's a very slightly larger version of our own sun -- replace our local star with Alpha Centauri A and the average person would be hard pressed to notice the difference for a while; Alpha Centauri B, an orange star about 7/8 the size of the sun, orbiting with Alpha Centauri A in way that keeps the two stars an average of 24.4 astronomical units (about 3.8 billion kilometers) apart; and Alpha Centauri C, a red dwarf star also known as Proxima Centauri, which orbits around the A and B stars about 1/10 of a light year distant.

If Gaeta was checking the position of the zodiacal constellations with a sketch made from the Temple of Athena data, he's out of luck. As seen from Alpha Centauri, those constellations would be virtually identical to those seen from Earth, the chief difference being that Castor and Pollux, the Heads of the Gemini Twins, don't quite line up with their bodies. If Gaeta had incomplete data, or if the constellation Gemini was not visible for some reason (being occulted by Alpha Centauri, for example), he'd be absolutely correct in reporting that all "visible" constellations are a match, even though the fleet would be in the wrong place.

In the same way, the fleet could have arrived at Tai Ceti or Epsilon Eridani, two other type G sunlike stars in our local neighborhood. The zodiacal constellations as seen from those systems would be more distorted, especially around the Cancer-Leo and Aries-Taurus regions. But again, if Gaeta's data are sketchy and the local star is blocking out the appropriate regions of the zodiac, the rest of the constellations should pass muster.

But the real clue for me came at the finale of the third season. The camera pulled back out of the Ionian Nebula to show a wide shot of a quadrant of the Milky Way galaxy, then zoomed in again to give us a clear closeup of the western hemisphere of Earth. We clearly saw North America.

With this planet, we didn't see any unambiguously recognizable continents or land features. At all. There must be a reason for this.

The point is, the planet they call Earth doesn't necessarily have to be Earth at all. Even though the remains of the Temple of Aurora look like they were built on the old Fulton Ferry Terminal in Brooklyn.


wait2cme said...

I think it’s the planet Paradeen. Even though it looked like Manhattan. When the ships passed over the planet I did not see any of the continents.

Jason said...

I just wanted to say that I read your blog quite often, and I really enjoy your scientific insight into the show. I have to say, though, that I do separate what you write and what happens on BSG quite a bit sometimes, as I know the show is 'fiction' and not exactly based on true science. That said, however, your observations and explanations are very interesting, and I hope you will continue to write on this for a long time to come...I love it!

coolshoes said...

i personally dont want it to be earth. i am hoping it is not. i cant be. starbuck is basically the one that brought them there and she is "the harbinger of death" according to the hybrid and will lead the human race to its end. and the final five didnt really "know" where earth was. i think that if this planet is earth it is a little bit of a cop out for the show. i want to know what earth was like and i want to know how the people would've greeted them or attacked them maybe.

also i think it is convenient that there are now only 4 cylons in the fleet when they had said there were 5 cylons in previous episodes.... where is the final cylon then?? cant wait until next year to find out

The Earth Bound Misfit said...

I understand your point. But I am not sure if I agree. One of the striking differences between BSG and all other SF shows (other than Firefly) has been a lack of any intelligent life anywhere else in the Galaxy.

So if that is not Earth, then humanity has spread to many worlds. And yet in their travels, the Colonials have found no trace of humanity other than on Kobol and on the planet that may be Earth.

(It chaps my ass that we are going to have to wait a year or so to find out what happened.)

Jesse said...

Perhaps Gaeta dropping his what I perceived to be pain pills on the deck was foreshadowing that his data might be a little whack for a while.

j4yx0r said...

Good points all around but I'm wont to take it as wrote.

You must tell me more about Telectroscope! I'm currently living on the West Coast but I make it back East now and again. I'd like to know if it's worth the trip. All that I've seen and read about it has me really interested.


Charles said...

No, it is Earth for sure. Notice the beached tugboat under the bridge pylon as well as the collapsed dome of the monument. It is only one small location on Earth as well.
I think they will find that other parts of the Earth are ok, most likely Australia and New Zealand.

Perhaps, with the combined technology of the remaining cylons, they may collectively figure out how to jump to an earlier part of Earth history and save the world!

Love this show.

evolver said...

But you are forgetting.... The tomb is not their only record of these star patterns. Roslin noted that the star patterns were recorded on the original colonial flags.

Assuming naturalistic science fiction and that this is an Earth-descended people, those representations, even if stylized, would be accurate.

No - they're at Earth. With only ten episodes left, that's fairly abundantly clear.

Chris said...

You brought up a good point about the constellations, namely, that we don't know which constellations they were passing their location upon. This got me thinking.

Consider this: Even our real-life star mapping capabilities allow us to calculate the "constellations" (i.e., arrangement of stars in the night sky) from almost anywhere in our region of the Milky Way. Such an astronomical capability would be required for FTL technology to be useful over any significant distance. Ostensibly, the Galactica checks the results of its FTL jumps by comparing the "constellations" they witness with those that they predicted they would witness while they were making the calculations for the jump. Ergo, the constellations referred to by Lt. Gaeta may actually have nothing to do with the zodiac.

And then, what is meant by "visible"? Well, fortuitously--and a bit of a stretch of the imagination, although good for television drama--the fleet jumped into orbit around the Earth(-like) planet. The sheer bulk of the planet and its supposed "yellow moon," i.e., if they are still listening to Starbuck's experiential visions/dreams, would occlude most star arrangements ("constellations") by which the Galactica would calculate its position. The result is as you pointed out; they could be in a nearby system. The telling astronomical anomalies from the predicted constellations just may not have been possible to see.

As a counterpoint to one of yours, however, in the Temple of Athena, Roslin did say that the ancient flags of the colonies carried star patterns that matched our zodiac constellations. It would not be unreasonable to assume that among the surviving records there would be depictions of those ancient flags. (If for nothing else, they would survive as a matter of course because in the end, this is a television show with its share of dramatic machinations.) As a result, then, Lt. Gaeta (or whoever) would not have to rely on a group's sketches from memory of the constellations they witnessed.

Adam Whitehead said...

A good analysis, but in one of the podcasts RDM did say that the Temple of Athena was a holographic projector, not a hallucination, and that the constellation patterns were recorded. Even if they weren't, the patterns are replicated on the flags of the Twelve Colonies and even a minor distortion would be notable.

The triple star from Starbuck's vision is a reference to the system where they found the crippled basestar and has nothing to do with Earth's system. Also, from Alpha Centauri A or B, Proxima is barely visible and would not be identifiable as being in the same system from direct observation out the cockpit of a Viper.

I personally believe it's Earth. Coming back after the break and saying, "Whoops! It isn't Earth after all!" would cheapen that moment at the end of S4.0. I do wonder why they didn't show any recognisable landmarks from orbit though. It seems a bit odd.

Owlfarmer said...

Did I miss something? How did we know about the "ruined temple of Aurora"? I was glad for the confirmation that the ruins were the Brooklyn Bridge, and linked the post on the Serenity forum, but somebody wondered how you knew which ruined temple, so I thought I'd ask.

llewelynmcellis said...

These are some really great points. In several groups I post in, everyone is adamant about it being NYC just because of the background view across the water. I don't deny that it looks achingly similar to tourist people have posted of themselves in almost the exact position that provides the background likeness, but I also see a stark contrast in the architecture. Great blog!

Brad said...

They certainly recorded the constellations in that projection. Hard to believe you would go on an expedition to Kobol to gather clues to Earth and not bring along a camera.

Anyway, when Starbuck was whisked to Earth, she certainly had a camera, and her magic viper took lots of photos of the constellations, and they matched them to the Zodiac projection on Kobol.

Plus the planet has a giant moon. The only confusing part is that she said it's a yellow moon, and Pythia's description of the moon also described it as yellow. In her photo, we see something that astronomers will recognize -- the moon they used is in partial eclipse! I have yet to come to any solid explanation of all this stuff about the moon, but it looks like our moon (in partial eclipse) and that makes it more likely this is Earth that Starbuck went to and photographed constellations from.

Possibly the moon is terraformed, or was before the exodus from Earth to Kobol. (And yes, the only plot consistent with science is that Earth is the true homeworld of humanity.)

Now this might be a fake-out, but hard to see why. A ruined Earth is the right plot, drama-wise, so why have a ruined fake Earth and then proceed to a ruined real Earth?

Chris Hutchcroft said...

I think the constellation comparison is vague enough to mean they could be near Earth on a nearby colony.

Even if it was Earth, they'd home in on the Temple of Aurura as their prime location to land and possibly ignore the rest of the planet initially - perhaps there are still natives in another hemisphere.

Somehow the destroyed bridge reference means enough to the plot to shoot that on location in NY rather than Vancouver with the rest of the episodes. Perhaps an homage to the closing scene Planet Of The Apes?