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Hourok (Planet)

Hourok (HOH-ruck) is the home planet of the Avians. Its system lies in the constellation Cygnus, approximately nine thousand light years from Earth.

System Overview

Hourok is a warm, rocky planet with an iron core, a silicate crust, and a near-global ocean. It is approximately five times more massive than Earth, but less dense. Its surface gravity is about twice that of Earth's, and it has a thick nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere. It maintains a low-eccentricity S-type orbit around its primary star, Keena (keh-EHN-ah). Keena is a very sunlike star, and part of a binary system. The other star in Hourok's solar system is Pochiki (POH-chi-kee), a former sunlike star that has entered the red giant phase of its life cycle. Hourok orbits Keena at a distance of approximately .9 AU (about 90% of the distance from Earth to the Sun), and Keena and Pochiki orbit each other at an average distance of approximately 50 AU. Although Hourok receives relatively little energy from Pochiki, the distant giant is bright enough to cause Hourok to have “red nights” during the part of its year when it sits between the two stars.

A view of the inner system. The orbits of Golgok and Viriuk are much too distant to be included in this image.

Hourok's day is approximately 28 hours long, and its axis is almost perfectly perpendicular to the plane of its orbit around Keena, which results in very little seasonal differentiation.

There are two other planets, Golgok and Viriuk, in this system, both of which are ice giants that have extremely distant P-type orbits around the entire binary system. The nearer of these two has a large icy moon, likely captured from the system's unstable Kuiper belt, on which the Avians have built a permanent research and military base.

Geography, Oceans, and Atmosphere of Hourok

Nearly 90% of Hourok is covered by a relatively shallow ocean. As the primary method of continent formation is volcanism, not plate tectonics, land masses are generally smaller and more scattered than on Earth. Several large masses, formed from groups of volcanoes which rose together, are surrounded by archipelagoes tens of thousands of kilometers long.

The planetary ocean, while extensive, is also fairly shallow in most areas, with an average depth of 700 meters, and rarely reaching over 2000 meters deep. Most land masses on Hourok are surrounded by broad shields of hardened lava that can keep the surrounding water no more than a few meters deep for dozens of kilometers beyond the shore.

Due to Hourok's low axis tilt, ice caps at the poles remain relatively fixed year-round, and seasonal differences on Hourok depend largely on its position relative to the distant but giant star Pochiki. When Hourok is positioned between the two stars in its system, infrared radiation from Pochiki decreases nighttime cooling, resulting in a warm season planet-wide.

The shallow ocean, volcanism, dense atmosphere, proximity to its primary star, and the presence of a nearby red giant mean that Hourok is constantly on the verge of experiencing a runaway greenhouse effect that would cause the planet to become hostile to life. However, Keena produces an abnormally high level of UV radiation, resulting in Hourok having a significantly thicker blanket of Ozone than similar planets like earth, which scatters outside radiation and makes the planet hospitable.

Life on Hourok

As on most worlds, life on Hourok evolved in its oceans. However, because of the world's high gravity and relatively rapidly changing geography, the transition of aquatic life to the land was both slower and less extensive than on many worlds. It is generally believed that the creatures from which the Avians evolved never went through an exclusively terrestrial phase, and that their wings adapted directly from the fins of their own forbears.

The species of Hourok would be largely recognizable to a visitor from earth, having evolved to fill similar niches. However, there are very few creatures on Hourok that share features of earth's mammals, and only a few species of reptile like creatures give birth to live infants, rather than laying eggs. Most life on Hourok remains aquatic, with some oceanic life forms, such as the filter-feeding frilled jelly eel, attaining enormous sizes.

Animal life above the surface of the ocean tends to make use of extremely light and flexible body frames, and Hourok is filled with a wide variety of flying animals. The planet's dense surface atmosphere makes flying much easier than on an earth-sized body, and warm updrafts from the constantly-evaporating oceans allows creatures to soar for long periods while expending minimal energy.

Plant life on the surface tends toward one of three forms. The first is broad, thick, spongy, lichen-like mats formed from colonies of cells. These mats can grow to cover hundreds of square miles, and are themselves frequently used as shelter for small surface creatures. The second is tall, fibrous, treelike forms with low density and leaflike photosynthesis-producing structures that are sometimes only a few cells thick and nearly transparent. The third form takes the opposite approach, forming extremely strong and dense branching, twisting towers.

Avians themselves seem to have evolved from a single group of small birdlike fish who evolved the ability to launch themselves out of the water to glide above the surface looking for food. Eventually these creatures evolved sophisticated lungs and moved onto the land. From there, they spread out to inhabit nearly every latitude and elevation of Hourok, and adapted into various forms.

In the past few thousand years, these forms have become increasingly distinct due to selective breeding programs initiated early on, as far back as the first evidence of Avian sentience. As such, while there is some debate about whether Avians should be considered a species or a group of species, it is clear from scientific experiments (of questionable morality) that Greater Avians and Lesser Avians have evolved to such a point that breeding is no longer possible between the two groups. Hybrid individuals with two Greater or two Lesser avian parents of differing types are possible, but social pressures in Avian culture mean that such instances are extremely rare, and are generally considered genetic freaks. Most hybrid Avians are sterilized at birth, and there are rumors of some of them being quietly euthanized.

Story Locations

Characters

Leviathan's Children

hourok.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/23 21:43 by admin