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Is there an in-universe explanation for how it is that the outer planets in Firefly all seem to have temperate climate zones, despite their distance from the sun? I am assuming here that the outer planets (or moons) must be farther away from their star than Saturn is from our sun. They should all be frozen, with seas of liquid methane, like Titan.

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    @Keen has the right canon explanation, however there are a few other possibilities: the sun could be larger than our own, this would mean the solar system is young, hot, and large. This would lead to a lot of gas giants with big hot moons, and big hot moons can be easily terraformed. The problem here would be that, because the system is young, life wouldn't have arisen or become complex. But we can assume they brought life from Earth. It also means this system has between 1 million and 1 billion years to exist. But that's long enough. – DampeS8N Apr 7 '11 at 12:08
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    I love Firefly because it solves all the problems of space travel without magic. I hate Firefly for including psychics for no reason other than to ruin a perfectly plausible world. – DampeS8N Apr 7 '11 at 12:11
  • @DampeS8N That still doesn't seem to add up. If the sun is larger and hotter than ours, then the inner planets would be way too hot for life, like the day side of Mercury – Dima Apr 7 '11 at 13:07
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    the inner planets would cook, yes, but the habitable region around the star would be larger. It just would be farther away. Consider Jupiter and Saturn in our own system. If the sun were larger, those moons would likely be habitable. There are a lot more of them than there are terrestrial planets. – DampeS8N Apr 7 '11 at 13:27
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    In addition to all the great answers below, consider that we may have only seen the equatorial regions of some of the colder bodies, and the polar regions of some of the warmer. – user1786 May 10 '11 at 13:08
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According to the Wikipedia article List of Firefly planets and moons, there are actually five stars and seven brown dwarfs in the 34 Tauri (the name of the system). The central planets all orbit the White Sun in the center of the system. The border planets orbit two other stars that both orbit the White Sun. All of this information comes from The Complete and Official Map of The Verse by Geoffrey Mandel as specified in the Wikipedia article.

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    Is Tauri is a reference to Stargate? – Sinan Apr 7 '11 at 23:16
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    I'm not sure if it's a reference to Stargate, but the real 34 Tauri was the original name for Uranus, before it was determined to be a planet and not a star. – Poindexter Apr 8 '11 at 15:19
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    "Tauri" is just Latin for "of the Bull", referring to the constellation Taurus - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_naming_conventions. – Chris B. Behrens May 29 '12 at 18:39
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    That seems rather... odd. Would that be physically stable for cosmological periods of time? – Kevin Jan 22 '16 at 7:05
  • The exact configuration I've seen on maps of the Verse doesn't look plausible for a real star system, but crazy multiple star systems do exist - Castor is a 6-star system and Nu Scorpii is probably a 7-star system. They look a bit different though: real ones break down into close pairs (very close relative to the separation from other components of the system) or single stars. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castor_(star) the individual pairs all have an orbital period of <10 days while the A pair and B pair's mutual orbit is 445 yrs and the AB quartet-C pair orbit is 14000 yrs. – cometaryorbit Jun 7 '17 at 3:52
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They were terraformed, as mentioned in the Train Job. The planets most distant from the sun must have more greenhouse gases in their atmospheres. Or they have warmer cores that are leak heat to the surface that keep it nice and warm on the surface.

  • Also it could be that the systems have binary stars. – Sinan Apr 7 '11 at 8:54
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    Yes, I know they were terraformed. But "terraforming" is not a magic wand that fixes everything. You cannot alter the planet's mass to change its surface gravity, and you cannot change the amount of energy it gets from the sun, unless you somehow move it closer. Greenhouse effect is a possibility, but it does not seem plausible that you can significantly increase the surface temperature without the greenhouse effect getting out of control and turning your planet into Venus. – Dima Apr 7 '11 at 13:12
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    Also, even if the greenhouse or heat from the core explanation can explain the surface temperature, it cannot explain the bright sunlight that we see on all the planets. They are too far away from the sun for that. And if you are not getting enough sunlight, typical Earth plants cannot survive. – Dima Apr 7 '11 at 13:14
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    The planetary atmospheres folks say runaway greenhouse (caused by ocen evaporation/steam atmosphere cannot happen below a ceratin level of solar input per square meter. I don't think there is any way to make the inhabitable region very wide. Just another example of not letting science/physics get in the way of a good story. – Omega Centauri Apr 7 '11 at 18:26
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    @Dima I know this conversation is super-old, but it's also worth noting that the people living on the Outer Planets are specifically said to NOT be the ones who terraformed them. The "cowboys" were dropped there after terraforming was complete, presumably by the pre-war Alliance. It's speculation, but it's not hard to imagine that the Alliance has highly sophisticated terraforming techniques, with special tools for warming and cooling entire worlds, creating artificial gravity (like they do on ships), lensing or mirroring to increase sunlight, etc. It's scifi science, but then this is scifi. – Nerrolken Mar 4 '15 at 17:35
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According to the RPG, admittedly a source of dubious canonicity:

There are 5 stars in system. The worlds orbit around their own star at distances where greenhouse effect can be blamed for the temperature in a semi-reasonable manner. Artificial gravity generators are used to maintain breathable atmospheres on some of the smaller worlds.

More importantly,according to the interview on the Serenity Blue Ray, Joss stuck to the rule of Drama when creating the verse, not to the rule of Science. Joss didn't worry about it.

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I do agree to some extent that a larger sun with a higher metal index could have both a much wider habitable zone and a greater number of planet. If one could some how control gravity without too much effort the depth of atmosphere could be controlled. Some feel Sol could have a life supporting planet beyond Mars if the planet was larger and the right atmosphere depth and gas mixture. See the Wikipedia article of habitable zones of stars.

Granted I don't think JW sweated the details......Trig

1

Our galaxy is currently 'eating' the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy. It is feasible that during one (or more) of the passes, planets were captured from other systems that were within 5 degrees of the ecliptic to the (Firefly) system. This would, in fact, produce exactly the type of orbital path distribution seen in the movie Serenity.

If the star is a blue-white, the star itself would be a pin-prick in the sky, but the light perceived by the human eye (with its self-regulating photo-limiter) would seem to be the same whether on an inner or outer system within the habitable zone.

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    I'm skeptical of that explanation. Near passes between stars, close enough for planets to be captured, (a) are very rare, and (b) don't require galactic collisions to explain them. – Keith Thompson Mar 26 '12 at 19:42

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