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.