The planet Thule's extensive icecaps make the Zeta Tucane system at best a marginal prospect for habitation.
|Right ascension (Epoch J2000)||00h 20m 04.26s|
|Declination (Epoch J2000)||-64° 52' 29.25"|
|Spectral type||F8-G0 V|
|Distance from Sol||28.0 ly|
|Other designations||Zet Tuc, HR 77, Gl 17, AC+48 1595, Hip 1599, HD 1581, CP(D)-65 13, SAO 248163, FK5 10, LHS 5, LTT 167, LPM 16, LFT 36.|
Zeta Tucanae is located about 28.0 light-years from Sol. It lies in the central part of the constellation Tucana, the Toucan. It is a yellowish main sequence dwarf of spectral and luminosity type F8-G0 V, with about 98 percent of Sol's mass, 1.1 times its diameter, and 1.3 times its luminosity. The star may be only 44 to 79 percent as enriched as Sol with elements heavier than hydrogen ("metallicity"), based on its abundance of iron .
The Zeta Tucanae system was first charted in 2015 by the Artemis Foundation, at the behest of their primary shareholder Stellvia Corporation. The survey discovered ten planets and sixteen dwarf planets, the innermost four being rocky planets in similar configuration to Sol. One of these worlds was naturally habitable, with another being suitable for terraforming in the long term.
Zeta Tucanae IV was the only habitable planet discovered during the survey. It has an orbital period of 456.9 standard Earth days and a local day of 19.59 hours. The surface gravity is .993 Gs, close enough to Earth-normal as to be undetectable by humans. Sea-level air pressure is 97% of terrestrial pressure. The planet has an axial tilt of 30 degrees and the orbital eccentricity is enough to cause noticable seasonable variation. (Or would, save for the environmental issues discussed below.) Zet Tuc IV has one moon, a body roughly 150% Luna-sized orbiting at a distance of 240,000 km; tidal forces are comparatively much stronger than on Earth.
Zet Tuc IV was named Thule by the discoverers for the very impressive extent of its polar caps. While not completely frozen over like New Alaska or similar iceworlds discovered around red and brown dwarf stars, Thule is covered with ice all the way down to the tropical latitudes. Based on core samples taken during the first and second Zeta Tucanae expeditions, the Thulian ice age has been underway for the last six million years. Radar and ice-penetrating lidar surveys indicated that the planet has two supercontinents situated over the poles with Thule's ocean Okeanos lying between them. The fact that Okeanos has uninterrupted currents running through the equator is likely key to the planet's habitability -- the heat transfer keeps the ice at bay and allows the tropical coastlines a reasonably temperate climate.
Life on Thule is somewhat primitive, a consequence of the extended ice age. With much of the planet's water locked up in ice, there is little cloud cover and less precipitation -- the skies of Thule are cloudless more often than not, and much of the temperate inland is desert. Only in places where glacial runoff collects into rivers is there much in the way of surface life, mostly consisting of hardy plants with some animals adapted to the constant cold. The largest land animal discovered by explorers is the Thulian ice-weasel, a quadraped dinosauroid that lives in and around the glacial rivers.
Thule's sea life is far better developed. While explorers have not yet seen the full picture, the first expedition noted several groups of ceteacianoid animals in coastal waters, along with surprisingly large schools of fish and underwater plant life resembling kelp forests in the shallows. The wide and comparatively warm channel of Okeanos, combined with sediment transfer from the glacial plains, keeps the ocean quite well-stocked with life.
The initial Artemis Foundation survey noted much of this, then departed the system in 2016. Followup expeditions -- the United Federation of Planets in 2017, then Artemis again in 2018 and 2020 -- continued with further in-depth surveys of the system. As an M-class world with a functional and (reasonably) human-supporting ecosystem the Thule system was put on the long list of colonization prospects, though its near-permanent ice age meant it was further down the list than others. In the 2025 UN-Convention conference on exosolar colonization, Stellvia Corporation made a surprising announcement: they not only intended to colonize Thule, they had already sent a ship out to do it.
The Chartered Thule Company, a Stellvia subsidiary with a charter from the kingdom of Monaco of all places, set out on the colony ship Eyrie (an Island-class ship developed by Greenwood) with 2,500 colonists the week before the conference began. The corporation's motive for colonizing Thule was and remains unclear, but Stellvia and the CTC seem to be adamant on making the project work. "This is not another Darien Scheme," was the constant (and sometimes heated) refrain from upper management during the conference and long afterwards. Indeed, Stellvia continues to accept new colonists for transfer to Eyrie and the surface settlement of Mandeville on a regular basis.
The following star systems are located within 10 light-years of Zeta Tucanae.
|6 Stars of Interest to Zeta Tucanae Fen|
|Star System||Distance from
|Travel Time||Interwave Lag|
|CD -68°47||3.1 ly||2.26 days||2.72 hours|
|L 49-19||6.2 ly||4.53 days||5.43 hours|
|Beta Hydri||6.7 ly||4.89 days||5.87 hours|
|L 119-44||7.5 ly||5.48 days||6.57 hours|
|CD -76°1182||7.7 ly||5.62 days||6.75 hours|
|Gamma Pavonis||9.3 ly||6.79 days||8.15 hours|
The First Zeta Tucanae Exploration Mission
Funded by Stellvia Corporation and carried out by the Artemis Foundation, the first Zeta Tucanae exploration mission took place from mid-November 2015 to mid-April 2016.
The members of this exploration team were carefully chosen by the Artemis Foundation with an eye toward ensuring they won't be at each others' throats midway through the mission. With a minimum of three months away from Sol (one month to reach Zeta Tucanae, at least one month exploring, one month to return), the crew needed to be able to get along with each other.
Two ships took part in this system survey.
Calypso was the main ship of the survey. This was the first mission for the Shuttle, not counting her shakedown cruise in early-November 2015. Her cargo bay was loaded with a large optical telescope and a number of non-AI probes and communications relays; of these, only the telescope was brought back to Sol.
Takumi F. was the survey's support ship. This Roadrunner-class supply ship usually runs produce from Wonderland to Genaros and "previously-enjoyed produce" back to Wonderland; this was the ship's first long-term mission. Six of the ship's eight cargo containers were stocked with non-perishable foods; one was a vehicle bay holding a waved Ford pickup truck, basic mechanic's tools, and some spare parts; the other container was outfitted as a recreation room, with a collar and tube for Calypso to dock.
Fifteen sophonts took part in the system survey.
- Ulick Halvarsen
- Mission Commander; Captain of the Calypso. Male Icelander, generalist-Fendane, has a PhD in astrophysics.
- Bardo MacInnis
- Pilot, Calypso. Male Australian - mixed Aboriginal and Scottish ancestry, Long Heinleinian.
- Anjelo Garcia
- Engineer, Calypso. Male Spanish-American, Pulper.
- Ship's AI, Calypso.
- Carlton Waggoner
- Captain, Takumi F. Male German, generalist.
- Ella Jaros
- Helmsman/Navigator, Takumi F. Female Polish-American, Belter.
- Warren Tipton
- Engineer, Takumi F. Englishman, generalist-Fendane.
- Vander Rycenga
- Cargomaster. Male Netherlander, generalist. Berthed in Takumi F.
- Rhiannon MacKenzie
- Medic. Scotswoman, generalist-Fendane, seconded from Stellvia. Berthed in Calypso.
- Miyuri Akisato
- Astronomer. AI, female Japanese, generalist-Fendane, seconded from Stellvia. Berthed in Calypso.
- Destinee LaCroux
- Physicist. Frenchwoman, has a graduate degree in geophysics from the Pierre and Marie Curie University, Long Heinleinian. Berthed in Calypso.
- Herrick Feingold
- Cartographer. Male German, Belter. Berthed in Calypso.
- Larry, Moe, and Curly
- Autonomous Survey Scouts. AIs, augmented Clay Pigeons, Supers. Berthed in Calypso.
- (Cayrel de Strobel et al, 1991, page 4)
- At the insistence of Noah Scott.