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When I was in high school in the early 1960s, I read a story about the discovery of an ancient civilization in the asteroid belt. I believe that the title was a take-off on Kepler's quote, "Between Jupiter and Mars I place a planet."

Does anyone know of this or remember it?

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    Welcome to the site! You have a good start here. If you could take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit in any more details, that would be great. Every little bit helps us.
    – amflare
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 18:49
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    There are a bunch of books that include ruins in the belt, relics of past civilization, etc. A bunch. More detail would help a great deal.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 19:00
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    Was the entire story focused on this discovery, or might that just have been one part of it? (Given the timing, and if the asteroid belt thing wasn't the entire story, I think Space Cadet is the most likely candidate. But there really are a lot of possibilities.) Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 21:19
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    Chapter 15 of The Rolling Stones is called "Inter Jovem et Martem Planetam Interposui" but there's no asteroid belt civilization. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 2:32
  • Was this a short story or a novel? You use the word story in the question but the question is tagged novel. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 12:07

4 Answers 4

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This could be Gold in the Sky by Alan E. Nourse, a novel that appeared in full in the September 1958 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories.

Chapter 4 is titled "Between Mars and Jupiter..." and contains the following conversation among the main characters:

"Hold it," Greg said, peering at the film reader. "There's something more on the last page, but I can't read it."

Tom blinked at the entry. "'Inter Jovem et Martem planetam interposui,'" he read. He scratched his head. "That's Latin, and it's famous, too. Kepler wrote it, back before the asteroids were discovered. 'Between Jupiter and Mars I will put a planet.'"

Greg and Johnny looked at each other. "I don't get it," Greg said.

"Dad told me about that once," Tom said. "Kepler couldn't understand the long jump between Mars and Jupiter, when Venus and Earth and Mars were so close together. He figured there ought to be a planet out here ... and he was right, in a way. There wasn't any one planet, unless you'd call Ceres a planet, but it wasn't just empty space between Mars and Jupiter either. The asteroids were here."

Tom's dad turns out to have buried a secret on an asteroid with an eccentric orbit.

Later, while they waited, they went over it to make sure that nothing was missing. "No wonder we couldn't spot it," the Major said. "We were looking for an asteroid in a standard orbit in the Belt."

"But there wasn't any," Tom said. "Dad's rock was isolated, nowhere near any others. And we were so busy thinking of the thousands of rocks in normal orbits between Mars and Jupiter that we forgot that there are a few eccentric ones that just don't travel that way."

"Like this one." The Major stared at the screen. "A long, intersecting orbit. It must swing out almost to Jupiter's orbit at one end, and come clear in to intersect Earth's orbit at the other end...."

"Which means that it cuts right through the Asteroid Belt and on out again." Tom grinned. "Dad must have seen it coming ... must have thought it was on collision course for a while. But he also must have realized that if he could hide something on its surface as it came near, it would be carried clear out of the Belt altogether in a few days' time."

The guys have to time their approach just right as the asteroid comes around. They land on it and search around for Tom's dad's secret.

And now his confidence began to fail. Supposing he had been wrong? They knew the rock had passed very close to Roger Hunter's asteroid, the astronomical records proved that. But suppose Dad had not used it as his hiding place at all? He pulled himself around another jagged rock shelf, staring down at the rough asteroid surface beyond....

... he heard a growl of static in his earphones, and then Greg's voice, high-pitched and excited. "Over here! I think I've found something!"

It was a metal cylinder, four feet long, two feet wide, and bluntly tapered at either end. In the sunlight it gleamed like polished silver, but they could see a hairline break in the metal encircling the center portion.

They had found Roger Hunter's bonanza.

But what's in the cylinder?

They stared down at it. The metal seemed to have a life of its own, glowing and glinting, focussing light into pinpoints on its surface.

It was a map.

At one side, a glowing ball with a fiery corona, an unmistakeable symbol that any intelligent creature in the universe that was able to perceive it at all would recognize as a star. Around it, in clearly marked orbits, ten planets. The third planet had a single satellite, the fourth two tiny ones. The sixth eleven. The seventh planet had ten, and was encircled by glowing rings.

But the fifth planet was broken into four parts.

Beyond the tenth planet there was nothing across a vast expanse of the map ... but at the far side was another star symbol, this one a double star with four planetary bodies.

They stared at the glowing map, speechless. There could be no mistaking the meaning of the thing that lay before them, marked in symbols that could mean only one thing to any intelligence that could recognize stars and planets.

But in the center of the sheet was another symbol. It lay halfway between the two Solar Systems, in the depths of interstellar space. It was a tiny picture, a silvery sliver of light, but it too was unmistakeable.

 

It could be nothing else but a Starship.

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  • Scavengers in Space cited in Lee Eckhardt's terse answer appears to be a reprinting or expansion of this novel in book form. Note the matching names (the Hunters, and Jupiter Equilateral) from this review of Scavengers in Space.
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 5:51
  • "Scavengers in Space" is one of the chapters of the novel.
    – shoover
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 14:41
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Could you be conflating two Heinleins?

The Kepler quote is from The Rolling Stones, but remains of an old civilisation are found on Ganymede in Farmer In the Sky.

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  • There is also mention of a possible ancient asteroid civilisation in Space Cadet.
    – JRE
    Commented Nov 18, 2017 at 18:26
  • There are also historical records of the 5th planetruling the solar system before being destroyed in Between Planets. Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 7:19
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This is 'Scavengers in Space' by Alan E. Nourse, 1959, 180 pages - hardback published by David McKay, paperback by Ace. "Part of this book was published under the title 'Gold in the Sky' in Amazing Science Fiction Stories'."

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    Some details how this matches would be great.
    – DavidW
    Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 22:13
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Scavengers in the sky sounds right. I remember reading this book back in the late 60's. All I remember is two brothers, possibly twins, were trying to solve how their father, an asteroid miner, died. They found a weapon that could disintegrate solid matter, which led them to an ancient civilization in the asteroid belt.

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    Scavengers in the Sky...? Did you mean Scavengers in Space...? If that is the book you're referring to, it would've been better to post this as a comment beneath Lee Eckhardt's answer, rather than as a separate answer, although as a new user, you need to earn a bit more reputation to unlock the comment everywhere privilege. Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 3:12

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