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RyanIVR
February 19th, 2007, 09:49 PM
Hello everyone!

This is my first post, and I am hoping to make many more in the future. Thank you for having me!

I have a request/question for all of you...

I am beginning to write my first novel, and I am having a tough time finding some information that I am looking for.

My story is set in a future where interstellar travel exists, and is common place. One thing that I need to know is the distances between star systems, to figure out how long travel would take when someone is traveling between them.

Finding out distances from our Sol system to others is very easy, as it can be found on many websites. However, I am having a lot of trouble finding a site that lists the distance between two different stars, for example, the distance from Alpha Centauri A and Tau Ceti.

Does anyone know of a site that lists this information? It would be very helpful.

Thanks!

Ryan Omark

Jacquin
February 20th, 2007, 04:31 AM
Instinctively two things leap to mind.

Firstly it would depend entirely on your method of travel, and so the times are essentially down to you. If you are somehow warping the space-time continuum or stepping outside of it to travel then the time is irrelevant. If you aren't then the times would be so immense as to be irrelevant. I suppose what I'm saying is just make it up. As long as it fits with the rest of the story no-one will question you, you're writing a novel, not a textbook...

Secondly if you really need to know and you already have the lengths of two sides of a triangle then you should be able to work out the third using trig. Not saying it would be easy or even fun, but it should be possible...

Welcome btw.

J

jallenw
February 20th, 2007, 04:55 AM
Actually, he would have to have the degrees of the angle to solve for the third side. Having only the 2 distances from sol isn't enough to figure the distance between the two systems.

Edit: Also keep in mind that many stars are moving in relation to other stars. Stars in a given constellation are always the same distance apart, but since constellations move in relation to each other, their stars are always moving away or towards other constellations. This means that the distance between systems will not always be fixed. As a result, you will probably have to simply make it up as you go, instead of using known information. So long as you keep your story constant with itself then most readers will accept it even if it isn't 100% scientifically accurate.

Holbrook
February 20th, 2007, 05:10 AM
The devil is in the details as they say. Don't get too lost in the research. The task is to write a story that catches the reader's imagination.

Sometimes you can try and shoe-horn in so much detail and world building that there is no room for the story.

(I can't believe I said that ;) )

Seriously too much research can kill an idea stone dead. Then again if can create a world like no other. It is finding a balance.

kater
February 20th, 2007, 07:07 AM
When in doubt Goggle it is my normal rule - I just typed in Distances in Space and got some neat websites, one even allows for how fast you travel http://janus.astro.umd.edu/astro/distance/ and after wandering the NASA site a few months back I know they have a phenomenal amount of information - their education section is superb and consumes lots of my time when I foolishly drift there.

Jacquin
February 20th, 2007, 08:56 AM
Actually, he would have to have the degrees of the angle to solve for the third side. Having only the 2 distances from sol isn't enough to figure the distance between the two systems.

Edit: Also keep in mind that many stars are moving in relation to other stars. Stars in a given constellation are always the same distance apart, but since constellations move in relation to each other, their stars are always moving away or towards other constellations. This means that the distance between systems will not always be fixed. As a result, you will probably have to simply make it up as you go, instead of using known information. So long as you keep your story constant with itself then most readers will accept it even if it isn't 100% scientifically accurate.

I should have been more clear. I assumed that if we had distances we would also have some sort of chart which would show a heading. From that an angle would be easy enough to deduce.

RyanIVR
February 20th, 2007, 01:55 PM
Thank you for all of the advice. I guess that you are all correct in saying that it probably isn't a huge deal.

jallenw
February 20th, 2007, 02:12 PM
Think about it this way, many humans have flown overseas. Hardly any of them know how far they traveled in miles. All we know is how long the trip took. 16 hours to Tokyo, 4 hours to London, Etc.

My advice: Don't talk about distances unless there is a reason. You characters will probably only want to know 2 things. How long will it take to get there? And do I have the fuel/food/etc. to survive that long?

Global Thermo Nuclear Peace,
J. Allen Wentworth

Nogothorod
February 20th, 2007, 03:06 PM
Yech, I broke out in hives while reading the responses here.

/hates math

RyanIVR
February 20th, 2007, 03:25 PM
Think about it this way, many humans have flown overseas. Hardly any of them know how far they traveled in miles. All we know is how long the trip took. 16 hours to Tokyo, 4 hours to London, Etc.

My advice: Don't talk about distances unless there is a reason. You characters will probably only want to know 2 things. How long will it take to get there? And do I have the fuel/food/etc. to survive that long?

Global Thermo Nuclear Peace,
J. Allen Wentworth

Precisely, and that's exactly what I need to know.

The only reason I need the distance is to figure out how long (approximately) it will take to get there. I probably should have mentioned that. Thanks!

So, the question still remains. Is there any place I can find this info?

Ryan