“When Gregor van der Berg and his team tapped into a natural gas reserve on Mars in 2057, the world collectively scrambled to find the source of this unexpected find. Over the next two decades, the International Martian Research Station was established and manned in the Hypanis Vallis region. It wasn’t long before IMRS unearthed fossilized microbial life. The discovery of extinct extraterrestrials precipitated a renewed interest in the search for life outside the Solar System.
“Six space agencies and two private companies cooperated to send out high-velocity interstellar probes to twelve nearby terrestrial planets, each one a promising candidate for life. Three of the Beagle probes, as they were called, went silent before reaching their destinations. Each of the remaining nine zoomed past their assigned planets, furiously gathering data all the while. As the 21st century came to a close, the first messages from the Barnard system reached Earth.
“The discoveries were astounding! The first satellite images from Barnard’s fourth planet revealed oceans and continents, dusted red-violet with flourishing plant life. The atmosphere was toxic to humans but rich in gasses common to Earth. The planet’s natural features, along with its tidally locked state, engendered an array of familiar biomes: tundra, rainforest, desert, and prairie among them, along with a few that didn’t fit the profile of any know biomes. Strong currents in the air and the seas moderated the climate and, most importantly, prevented the atmosphere from freezing on the dark side. The planet was given the proper name Ilion after the ancient city of Troy. In keeping with the ancient civilization theme, the other planets became Avaris, Tel Kabri, Ur, Vaishali, Heracleion Yingchang, Pompeii, and Cahokia.”
– Excerpt from The Other Red Planet: A history of the Odyssey program by Raya Andiyar-Mistry, Sergei Dotsenko,, and Johan R. Boscaro
From smallest to largest:
Size (Earth radii)
Mass (Earth masses)
Surface gravity (g)
Beagle 1 vanished shortly before the flyby but managed to capture several blurry photos of Tel Kabri and collect some preliminary data. Tel Kabri is tantalizingly Earthlike though much smaller, and many theorize that the probe was shot down.
Little was known about Ur at the time the probes were disseminated. As exoplanet detection technologies improved, it became clear that Ur had experienced a runaway greenhouse effect and was uninhabitable. Oblivious, Beagle 8 soldiered on.
Beagle 3 reached its target only to find that Cahokia was little more than a rock. The team’s astrobiologists were disappointed. The astrogeologists were not. The probes were programmed to position themselves between the planet and its star, but Beagle 3 suffered an anomaly that forced it to veer off course.
Probes 11 and 12 journeyed together to Barnard’s Star, where two promising planets had been detected. Beagle 11 split off from its sister and changed course to fly past Avaris, which turned out to be a dud.
Avaris was not the only Earth-sized planet to fail to pan out. Vaishali, like Ilion, is tidally locked and rimmed with ice. The ice, however, is not made of water but frozen gasses, and the planet is much too cold to support life.
As one of the last to reach its destination, Beagle 12 was under a good deal of pressure to find life. And find life, it did. The probes were outfitted with instruments sensitive to biosignatures, but Beagle 12 didn’t need these. Ilion’s biosphere was out in the open, visible to the naked eye from Beagle 12’s (very short-lived) vantage point.
Beagle 4 was the only probe to successfully sample its planet’s atmosphere. Pompeii’s air is thick with volcanic gasses and the world was deemed habitable to extremophilic life, though no biological activity was confirmed.
The super-Earth Yingchang was a long shot, but since so little was known about it, it was voted to be included in the program. Yingchang turned out to be a rocky planet with a tenuous atmosphere, not the water world many expected.
Heracleion was the water world everyone expected. Its mass and radius were measured from Earth, and from that information planetary scientists deduced that it must have an ocean – and a deep one at that. Beagle 5 gathered copious amounts of data but found no biosignatures.
The planets I made in Photoshop using various techniques, mostly spherizing textures and playing around with layer styles and gradients. The textures are sourced from NASA and my own photos of physical objects, including some of my dioramas. Some elements are hand painted, including, I believe, the entirety of Yingchang. I made that one a long time ago so I'm not a hundred percent sure.