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Cytherea's Diadem

A Short-lived ring around Venus

Cythera's Diadem
Image from John M Dollan

By the time that the Solar Organization had once again turned its thoughts back to the prospect of terraforming Venus, it was a planet considered to have already been extensively modified by thousands of years of artificial atmospheric depletion. Indeed, the baseline population of Humans in Solsys, a definite minority as far as populations go, had long since called it a 'broken' planet. The world, when viewed from space, was still perpetually shrouded in thick clouds of carbon dioxide and varying degrees of sulfuric acid (depending on volcanic activity at any one period), and the surface remained almost hellishly hot. But it was, nevertheless, a far cry from the Cytherean world that it had once been. The decision to terraform the world was, thus, almost a foregone conclusion.

In 8977, the first steps for terraforming Venus were taken as construction was begun on a gigantic sunshade, located at Venus' L1 position. Future plans would include the construction of a dynamically-supported mass ring, H2O imports via cometary impacts, and other biological and mechanical means to lower temperatures and produce a viable planetary biosphere. It was a project which garnered the attention of the entire Old Solar System. While the assertions are unsubstantiated, some have claimed that even GAIA gave the project her support. In the end, there was a simple truth that would come from this project — The Solar System would once again have a garden world in its system, one that would be open to traffic from all corners of the Terragen Sphere, and one which would not be held under a shroud of almost mystical secrecy (as had become the perception, and justifiably so, of Old Earth itself).

While cometary impacts were not in the plans until several centuries down the line, after Venus' surface would be cool enough to allow for the presence of surface water, already many cometary bodies had been harvested in the Outer Solar System and sent inward in slow orbits. Wrapped within protective and reflective layers of material, and often accompanied by automated systems which would, decades or centuries later place them in stable, high orbits above Venus, these comets were the early vanguard of thousands of such bodies slated to end their lives in the yet to be born Venusian oceans. However, even as these first comets were still being prepped and placed in altered orbits, one individual had already come up with an alternative use for one comet in particular.

Oylär Tolison-Jharé, a Plebhu artist who had long lived on Mars in a private estate, both looked forward to what Mars would become, and he lamented what was being lost. In his own words, "For millennia before Humankind ever dreamt that it was possible to travel beyond the confines of Earth's surface, before he ever realized that there were in fact places beyond his own small sphere, he regarded the planet Venus as a thing of beauty and wonder. A shining jewel preceded or followed by the rising and setting Sun, Venus was most often considered to be the physical embodiment of goddesses of beauty and love. Despite the truly hellish nature of its surface, and even after the knowledge of this geological truth, Venus continued to be seen as a beacon of sheer divinity. This pearly whiteness will be lost, to be replaced by the blue of oceans, the brown and green of living earth. Beauty will be replaced by practicality, and rightly so. But to allow this to happen without fanfare is wrong, and it is disrespectful to all who have gone before. Before she is transformed, Venus should be given a final gift of worship, a crown to symbolize her divine past, her divine beauty, and her living future. Cytherea needs a crown."

A Plebhu with no small personal resources, Oylär had the means to both purchase and transport one of these first comets, at the time still beyond the orbit of Neptune. His plan, approved by the Solar Organization, was to speed up the arrival of the comet, and to place it in an orbit about Venus, where it would be disassembled and transformed into a planetary ring. Because the construction of the proposed mass ring about Venus was not scheduled to begin for well over one hundred years, Oylär's proposal was approved and sanctioned. But very few people, including the Council, realized just how spectacular his work of art was to be.

The public had been unaware that disassemblers had long been at work on the comet, within its protective covering, on the entire trip inward from its trans-Neptunian orbit. Thus, when the comet arrived into Venusian orbit in 9244 it had already been reduced to sand-grain-sized particles. For six months the orbit of the cometary package was carefully manipulated, and equipment installed which would disperse the debris in a consistent and even manner; the entire Sol Sys was watching the event, and indeed much of the Terragen Sphere was also peeking in. This was to be the greatest event in the Solar System since the secession of the Martian Republic in 8600, and it was to be far more positive. And indeed, when the comet's covering was removed in a matter of 12 seconds, countless bits of cometary ice began to sublimate under the pressure of the nearby sun. As the ring was forming it glowed and sent out streamers of vapor for hundreds of thousands of kilometers. For nearly 12 hours Venus was surrounded by what appeared to be, from a distance and through telescopic observation, flowing and glowing locks of silver hair. From Luna the brilliant star of Venus appeared to be transformed into a giant comet in its own right. And when that faded, what was left behind was a ring of rocky debris, encircling the planet like a crown of smoke.

For the next three years the ring eroded out of orbit, pulled inward by a combination of planetary gravity and tidal forces. From the upper cloud decks of Venus, a near continuous and spectacularly bright meteor shower could be seen for nearly four months straight, and indeed it became all the rage of Solsys to view, in real time, these showers via auto-cams placed in the upper atmosphere. But by the end of the three years, the ring had faded away from view. By the end of four years, all the particles had been removed from orbit, either by natural or by artificial needs. Cytherea's Diadem was a spectacular and beautiful homage to the classically known "Planet of Love", and many indeed regarded it as a suitable salute to the end of Venus as it had been known.

Today Cytherea's Diadem is remembered as a footnote in the history of Venus' terraforming. Images and recordings of the event, including a full length commentary by an avatar of Oylär, can be found in the Halcyonic Museum of Venusian History.

 
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Development Notes
Text by John M. Dollan

Initially published on 28 July 2007.

 
 
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