A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

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A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:40 am UTC

Hello All:

As everyone is no doubt aware, the third season of Game of Thrones is scheduled to start on March 31. During a conversation with a friend, we wondered what kind of planetary system would reflect the envrionment of the world of Westeros. Specifically:

1. Multiple seasons ( up to 10 consecutive years) of summer and winter, yet still using a system of years to measure them.
2. There are 24 hour days.
3. There are comets.
4. The flora and fauna are able to survive the extended seasons.
5. Gravity works in the 'normal' way.

I know that our planet has encountered changes in climate, such as ice ages, but have been longer in duration to the order of 10,000 or so years.

Also, if one watches the opening credits, it seems that everyone is living on the inside surface of a sphere. Is that even possible?!
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby folkhero » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:23 am UTC

I'm almost positive that the opening credits are completely stylistic and not not be taken as being an accurate representation of the universe of the show or the books.

I have wondered, when they talk about a summer that has lasted ten years, how they measure years. Maybe in their multi-year summers they still have days that get longer and shorter (in terms of daylight), but maybe it's something like the longest day is 17 hours and the shorted day is 15 hours or something like that. Winters would have, like 7 to 9 hour days. If the cycles are a consistent number of days then they call that cycle-length a year. The transition seasons might be trickier but if the cycle pattern is clear enough in winter and summer then it would make sense to keep your year system even if the solstice doesn't end up being a local maximum when it's autumn.

I have no doubt life could thrive under these conditions, I mean our boring Earth years have lead to insects that evolved to hibernate for large* prime numbers of years for interesting math reasons. Although life on this sort of world might look very different than our world. It's hard to imagine large mammals doing very well in Westeros with such long winters.

As for what kind of cosmology/solar system would produce such erratic seasons, I have no idea. It might be some sort of Ptolemiac solar system? It seems almost impossible that it would be something that agrees with our current laws of physics (but then again neither do dragons or blood magic.)

*well kinda large like 17 and 13
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby omgryebread » Wed Mar 13, 2013 2:26 pm UTC

I'm pretty sure Word of God has established that the seasons are magical and will be a plot point.

That simplifies years and everything a whole lot more. The cosmology is similar to Earth, it's just that magic overrides any effects cosmology has on the climate. Also notable is the fact they seem a lot less concerned about the coming winter outside of Westeros, which could be explained by ocean currents, but also makes magic seem a better candidate.

Which, all in all, is a disappointing answer.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:51 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:I'm pretty sure Word of God has established that the seasons are magical and will be a plot point.

That simplifies years and everything a whole lot more. The cosmology is similar to Earth, it's just that magic overrides any effects cosmology has on the climate. Also notable is the fact they seem a lot less concerned about the coming winter outside of Westeros, which could be explained by ocean currents, but also makes magic seem a better candidate.

Which, all in all, is a disappointing answer.


It's obviously the Jotuns messing with the Cask of Eternal Winters again...

More seriously, it's pretty clear that the Others thrive on and in cold and night, and R'hllor is said to be opposed to a spirit of ice, which suggests that Westeros is the battleground between Ice and Fire; the land where not only are winter and summer, but also Winter and Summer.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:43 pm UTC

folkhero wrote:I have wondered, when they talk about a summer that has lasted ten years, how they measure years. Maybe in their multi-year summers they still have days that get longer and shorter (in terms of daylight), but maybe it's something like the longest day is 17 hours and the shorted day is 15 hours or something like that. Winters would have, like 7 to 9 hour days. If the cycles are a consistent number of days then they call that cycle-length a year. The transition seasons might be trickier but if the cycle pattern is clear enough in winter and summer then it would make sense to keep your year system even if the solstice doesn't end up being a local maximum when it's autumn
Wouldn't it be that day length is consistent but the amount of radiation hitting the ground would vary on the 10 year cycle? In summer in a WINTER then you get a 16 hour day, it's just that the sun doesn't get as hot as it does in a 8 hour day in summer in a SUMMER.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Vieto » Thu Mar 14, 2013 7:18 am UTC

Other (heh) than the WOG answer of 'magic', a non-magical explaination for WINTER is that the planet Westeros is on is that they are just short ice ages, as a result of a tilt-wobble that has a higher frequency than earth's. Essos might not have it as bad as Westeros simply because they lack a land bridge to the Other, and all that salt water can't be good for magic ice zombies.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:25 am UTC

folkhero wrote:
As for what kind of cosmology/solar system would produce such erratic seasons, I have no idea. It might be some sort of Ptolemiac solar system? It seems almost impossible that it would be something that agrees with our current laws of physics (but then again neither do dragons or blood magic.)

*well kinda large like 17 and 13


What about two planetary bodies that orbits intersect to the point of changing the climate on an erratic basis? It would explain the cultural association of individual years while also explaining the multiple seasons. However, such an event would need to leave day length unaffected.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Adam H » Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:37 pm UTC

Perhaps the planet isn't tilted on its axis like what causes Earth's seasons; instead the sun just gets hotter or colder, or there's some other energy source that emits heat.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby folkhero » Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:12 pm UTC

MarkSmash wrote:What about two planetary bodies that orbits intersect to the point of changing the climate on an erratic basis? It would explain the cultural association of individual years while also explaining the multiple seasons. However, such an event would need to leave day length unaffected.

Any system like that would be far too unstable. One or both of the planets would:
1) Crash into the star,
2) Escape the orbit of the star or,
3) Find a new orbit that wasn't getting messed around with so often
long before complex life would have time to evolve.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:31 pm UTC

You know how our own sun has cycles that last (I think) 11 years? It has no noticeable effect on our climate because the variation is a tiny fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent. Maybe the Game Of Thrones planet orbits a star with a much higher variability.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:02 pm UTC

folkhero wrote:
MarkSmash wrote:What about two planetary bodies that orbits intersect to the point of changing the climate on an erratic basis? It would explain the cultural association of individual years while also explaining the multiple seasons. However, such an event would need to leave day length unaffected.

Any system like that would be far too unstable. One or both of the planets would:
1) Crash into the star,
2) Escape the orbit of the star or,
3) Find a new orbit that wasn't getting messed around with so often
long before complex life would have time to evolve.


It could be a relatively recent phenomena, such as a rogue planet being captured by the system within the last few hundreds or thousands of years, long enough that a time when there were regular seasons could be a distant memory or forgotten entirely, but recent enough that the orbits haven't settled yet.

This might also indicate that some sort of disaster is imminent, such as the planet being ejected from the system (winter is coming indeed)
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby bigglesworth » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:57 am UTC

I was having a think about this and I came up with the idea that there could be a cloud of debris orbiting closer to the star than the planet. This debris belt would have thin and thick areas corresponding to the long summer and winter cycle.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:00 am UTC

So, to recap the theories thus far:

1. Orbit perturbed by another object (planet, comet) that leads to shifts in climate.
2. Variability in the output of the sun following a known, but variable, cycle.
3. a cloud of debris between the star and the planet of westeros that causes the amount of solar energy reaching the planet to be variable.
4. Mini ice ages.
5. Magic.

Personally, I like number 2 and 4.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby mosc » Mon Mar 18, 2013 6:14 pm UTC

Wobble would be more consistent with the description of "seasons" in GOT. The earth's wobble contributes to what we refer to as "ice ages". More specifically it's a 25,600 year repeating cycle of "precession". We also have a very very slight "nutation" of 18.6 years in length. If these factors were made more substantial, they could result in a fairly substantial 20-some year regular summer/winter cycle with a additional variance in length and severity based on correlation with the other. This would imply another gravitational body exerting consistent force on the planet besides the main star. A large moon (would have to be larger than ours relative to the planet's weight) or another planet, particularly a gas giant, in a nearby orbital lane. Basically, you're looking for an earth like body who's rotational axis (plural) are not as stable. It is not far fetched at all to have a cycle of cycles and overlap that with once in an eon type extremes.

EDIT: Basically read this and you can extrapolate a GOT-like climate cycle by controlling the speed an rate of these orbital factors.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Adam H » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:10 pm UTC

I don't understand the precession theory completely, but it seems like there are some problems with it based on:

1) the summer/winter cycle is unpredictable and ranges from 1-2 years to 20-30 years.

2) If there was ever an extremely long and cold winter, then humans would become extinct (so we know there was not). Also, everyone seems to agree that a long summer means a long winter (but not vice-versa). So elements of the cycle are predictable.

3) We don't really know about the southern hemisphere, but it seems like the long winters in the north don't correspond with long summers in the south (and vice versa). It seems like it's just winter all over the planet. Basically, I don't think there's an axial tilt at all. There's no evidence of mini-seasons - there aren't regular hot periods and cold periods other than the big swing from summer to winter, at least from what I can tell.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:18 pm UTC

The problem with assuming seasonal changes are anything OTHER than magic, is it presupposes that life evolved on a planet that is subject to extremely random seasons, which is not supported by anything in the book.

Look, people; it's a MacGuffin, it doesn't require a lot of thought, it's just magic.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:11 pm UTC

Not necessarily, as I mentioned, things like orbit perturbing objects or debris clouds could be relatively recent phenomena. In terms of macro-evolution, a few thousand years is a blink of an eye.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby folkhero » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:09 am UTC

Adam H wrote:3) We don't really know about the southern hemisphere, but it seems like the long winters in the north don't correspond with long summers in the south (and vice versa). It seems like it's just winter all over the planet. Basically, I don't think there's an axial tilt at all. There's no evidence of mini-seasons - there aren't regular hot periods and cold periods other than the big swing from summer to winter, at least from what I can tell.

But without mini seasons, or something like them, how are they able to define a year?
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby mosc » Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:10 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:I don't understand the precession theory completely, but it seems like there are some problems with it based on:

1) the summer/winter cycle is unpredictable and ranges from 1-2 years to 20-30 years.

2) If there was ever an extremely long and cold winter, then humans would become extinct (so we know there was not). Also, everyone seems to agree that a long summer means a long winter (but not vice-versa). So elements of the cycle are predictable.

3) We don't really know about the southern hemisphere, but it seems like the long winters in the north don't correspond with long summers in the south (and vice versa). It seems like it's just winter all over the planet. Basically, I don't think there's an axial tilt at all. There's no evidence of mini-seasons - there aren't regular hot periods and cold periods other than the big swing from summer to winter, at least from what I can tell.

No, you're not understanding.

You still get a year. You still spin around the star at exactly the same rate. During a year, the axis of rotation can change substantially. This gives years with a winter that feels like a spring followed by a summer that would be extra hot. The book talks about the southern kingdoms not having much winter... through any year. Even the coldest winters did not did not substantially change their climate. You are probably getting stuck on the word "winter" which GRRM seems to use to refer to multiple things. Basically, lets say there are four cycles:
1) Yearly cycle summer/fall/winter/spring
2) 20 year cycle summer/fall/winter/spring
3) 200 year cycle summer/fall/winter/spring
4) 2000 year cycle summer/fall/winter/spring
and that THEY OVERLAP!
So you can have a winter/winter/winter/winter which would be once in a couple thousand years, last for a decade or two, but still have a yearly seasonal variation (just if you're at the wall, it goes from ridiculous to inhuman back and forth). I fact, playing with the period and severity of these cycles, you can create a system which will peak very rarely with a combined total cycle in the millions of years.

I don't think the books imply the cycle is unpredictable, just that it has multiple periods. Some of which extend further back than their recorded history.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:00 pm UTC

mosc wrote:I don't think the books imply the cycle is unpredictable, just that it has multiple periods. Some of which extend further back than their recorded history.


What set of possible observations would allow you to distinguish between an intrinsically unpredictable cycle, and a superposition of a moderate number (a dozen, say) of cycles of various periods?
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Adam H » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:46 pm UTC

mosc wrote:You still get a year. You still spin around the star at exactly the same rate. During a year, the axis of rotation can change substantially. This gives years with a winter that feels like a spring followed by a summer that would be extra hot. The book talks about the southern kingdoms not having much winter... through any year. Even the coldest winters did not did not substantially change their climate. You are probably getting stuck on the word "winter" which GRRM seems to use to refer to multiple things.

I don't think there's any evidence of this in the books. GRRM uses winter and summer consistently AFAIK. Why do you think there is a annual winter and summer? The farms don't seem to have a harvest cycle. I don't know how they measure a year, but I suspect it is a set number of days, and possibly they keep track based on the night sky.

I just don't think there's any evidence of axial tilt: The southern kingdoms experience summer and winter just like the northern kingdoms, it's just hotter at all times. And again, there's no hint of a southern hemisphere that experiences opposite seasons.

If the factors you are talking about don't involve axial tilt, then I could get on board with something like a 7 year cycle + 9 year cycle + 20 year cycle.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:11 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:The problem with assuming seasonal changes are anything OTHER than magic, is it presupposes that life evolved on a planet that is subject to extremely random seasons, which is not supported by anything in the book.

Look, people; it's a MacGuffin, it doesn't require a lot of thought, it's just magic.


Actually, if we look at our own history, the changes in our environment led to the creation of the mythologies to explain it. The Vikings thought that Fenris the Wolf ate the sun, bringing about winter. That would be a magical explanation.

In Westeros, they talk about a contest between Ice and Fire. What is the change in environment that brought about that magical explanation?

In the end, you might be right; there may be no plausible explanation. Maybe a planet like Westeros is impossible based on our knowledge of physics. Until we've reached that conclusion, I find this discussion very interesting. In the immortal words of the Bard: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:34 pm UTC

folkhero wrote:But without mini seasons, or something like them, how are they able to define a year?


Let's see what we have:

1. Day length(standard) - Earth-like 24 hour days. Nothing is messing with planetary rotation, though inferences that the sun may rise in the West have been made, though mockingly.

2. Year length (standard) - 365 days or thereabouts per year. If, like Earth, the year is determined sunrise/sunset locations on the horizon, we can infer that the years were, at one time, similar to Earth.

3. Season length (variable) - On Earth, season length is standard due to axial tilt. On planet Westeros, axial tilt must be considerably different than Earth, or completely nonexistant. Or, if it is the same as Earth, other factors come into play to mess with the climate.

Adam H.'s point that there doesn't seem to be a southern hemisphere experiencing opposite seasons, I agree, may be evidence enough of the absence of axial tilt.

Given that there are creatures that utilize long periods of dormancy to adapt to this environment, we can probably assume that the planetary system is stable over the last 10,000 or so years, depending on the speed of evolution.

3a. No axial tilt plus irregular dust cloud between planet Westeros and star. Given that this would probably lead to some talk about the sun being eaten, this is an unlikely scenario.

3b. No axial tilt plus solar variability. I like this one because the variability of our own sun, while imperceptable on earth, follows an 11 year cycle - similar to the variances experienced on planet Westeros.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby mosc » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:51 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:What set of possible observations would allow you to distinguish between an intrinsically unpredictable cycle, and a superposition of a moderate number (a dozen, say) of cycles of various periods?

You'd have to measure changes in an orbit and extrapolate their period, model their cumulative effects, etc. It's at the edge of our current math given how complex gyroscopic effects are added to the complex relationship between thermal radiation absorbed from a star through a magnetic field that's changing it's relative position through that cycle. The link I gave earlier discusses the theory which dates back to only to the first world war. We didn't have much evidence to support or disprove it until the 1970s! Certainly out of GOT's tech tree. That said, Milankovitch cycles are fairly accepted science today and are even observed on other bodies within our solar system. It's also the leading candidate in why mars is so messed up.

So no, MarkSmash, it's far from impossible with what we know about physics. Basically you're talking about a planet that's a little bit more mars-like and a little bit less earth-like. All that may be needed is to shrink the size of the moon a little in earth's development to result in a GOT's like seasonal cycle.

Adam H wrote:I don't think there's any evidence of this in the books. GRRM uses winter and summer consistently AFAIK. Why do you think there is a annual winter and summer? The farms don't seem to have a harvest cycle. I don't know how they measure a year, but I suspect it is a set number of days, and possibly they keep track based on the night sky.

No, I think you're pretty wrong here. They talk about measuring winters in "years". The concept of a year, a harvest cycle, that stuff is all well established in the book. I remember specifically in the most recent book them talking about winters so bad in the past that entire harvests were skipped leading to food shortages in the north. There is a yearly season most definitely. On top of that, there is a substantial shift in the yearly average up and down that has a longer, multi-year period. I would argue that the more extreme winter obviously coming could be part of an even longer periodic supa-seasonal shift. It's a rapidly developing ice age. This can be modeled with the same factors that cause our ice ages, just taken a little bit further.

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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Adam H » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:55 pm UTC

Ah, after some light research it appears that you are at least somewhat correct. The days are indeed shorter in winter and longer in summer.

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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:57 am UTC

mosc wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:What set of possible observations would allow you to distinguish between an intrinsically unpredictable cycle, and a superposition of a moderate number (a dozen, say) of cycles of various periods?

You'd have to measure changes in an orbit and extrapolate their period, model their cumulative effects, etc. It's at the edge of our current math given how complex gyroscopic effects are added to the complex relationship between thermal radiation absorbed from a star through a magnetic field that's changing it's relative position through that cycle. The link I gave earlier discusses the theory which dates back to only to the first world war. We didn't have much evidence to support or disprove it until the 1970s! Certainly out of GOT's tech tree. That said, Milankovitch cycles are fairly accepted science today and are even observed on other bodies within our solar system. It's also the leading candidate in why mars is so messed up.


I'll make my point a little clearer - you can model any finite waveform arbitrarily closely as a sum of a finite number of sine and cosine waves; you can model planetary orbits as circular-plus-epicycles; any finite set of observations will fit some polynomial of finite degree.

Without examining an infinite stretch of time (or a finite period in infinite detail), it's impossible to distinguish between an intrinsically unpredictable non-repeating sequence of Summers and Winters and a sequence that follows a superposition of a finite number of cycles.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby eSOANEM » Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:54 am UTC

folkhero wrote:I have wondered, when they talk about a summer that has lasted ten years, how they measure years. Maybe in their multi-year summers they still have days that get longer and shorter (in terms of daylight), but maybe it's something like the longest day is 17 hours and the shorted day is 15 hours or something like that. Winters would have, like 7 to 9 hour days. If the cycles are a consistent number of days then they call that cycle-length a year. The transition seasons might be trickier but if the cycle pattern is clear enough in winter and summer then it would make sense to keep your year system even if the solstice doesn't end up being a local maximum when it's autumn.


Seasons are determined by the maesters by measuring the length of the day so this clearly can't be their definition of year.

Also, even if the seasons are predictable, the maesters do not of any way to predict otherwise they wouldn't need to measure the days before sending out the white ravens.

And, yeah. Word of god is that it is magic from the doom of Valyria that messed up the seasons.

Edit: is fictional science not a slightly better place for this?
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:58 pm UTC

eSOANEM wrote:Seasons are determined by the maesters by measuring the length of the day so this clearly can't be their definition of year.

Also, even if the seasons are predictable, the maesters do not of any way to predict otherwise they wouldn't need to measure the days before sending out the white ravens.

And, yeah. Word of god is that it is magic from the doom of Valyria that messed up the seasons.

Edit: is fictional science not a slightly better place for this?


Well, the book may be fictional, but the science of planetary systems that may describe the world of Game of Thrones are not.

I've been rewatching the TV series and have been noting the times that seasons/years/astronomical/geographic phenomena are mentioned and was sure that winters/summers were measured in years, but I haven't been able to find a reference where a year is defined.

Fortunately, there exists a Game of Thrones Timeline... http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Adam H » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:29 pm UTC

eSOANEM wrote:And, yeah. Word of god is that it is magic from the doom of Valyria that messed up the seasons.

Do you have a citation for this? The great night (winter that lasted for 1 generation) supposedly occured thousands of years before the doom of valyria, I believe.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:50 pm UTC

Adam H wrote:
eSOANEM wrote:And, yeah. Word of god is that it is magic from the doom of Valyria that messed up the seasons.

Do you have a citation for this? The great night (winter that lasted for 1 generation) supposedly occured thousands of years before the doom of valyria, I believe.


I figure that was just a tall tale, kind of like the Great Flood in the Bible. However, if was something that actually happened, we would be looking at something that would blot the sun out for a period of time, such as a dust cloud that orbits around sun closer than planet Westeros. Because we have darkness of more than one year (which may be defined in this case as one revolution around the sun), we can assume that the cloud and planet Westeros orbit in the same direction.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:44 pm UTC

MarkSmash wrote:
Adam H wrote:
eSOANEM wrote:And, yeah. Word of god is that it is magic from the doom of Valyria that messed up the seasons.

Do you have a citation for this? The great night (winter that lasted for 1 generation) supposedly occured thousands of years before the doom of valyria, I believe.


I figure that was just a tall tale, kind of like the Great Flood in the Bible. However, if was something that actually happened, we would be looking at something that would blot the sun out for a period of time, such as a dust cloud that orbits around sun closer than planet Westeros. Because we have darkness of more than one year (which may be defined in this case as one revolution around the sun), we can assume that the cloud and planet Westeros orbit in the same direction.


For the Great Night, I'd figure volcanic activity would be more likely than a dust cloud that blocks the Sun for 20-30 years and then doesn't recur for thousands of years...
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby eSOANEM » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:30 am UTC

Hmmmm, I could have sworn I'd read that on one of the wikis, but I can't seem to find it now. Given some of the other things in universe (such as the long night being not only night, but also winter), I think I must have imagined it. :/
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby Nylonathatep » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:44 pm UTC

From Wikipedia:

The Moon has a stabilizing effect on Earth's obliquity. Frequency map analysis suggests that, in the absence of the Moon, the obliquity can change rapidly due to orbital resonances and chaotic behavior of the Solar System, reaching as high as 90° in as little as a few million years.[16][17] However, more recent numerical simulations[18] suggest that even in the absence of the Moon, Earth's obliquity could be considerably more stable; varying only by about 20-25°. The Moon's stabilizing effect will continue for less than 2 billion years. If the Moon continues to recede from the Earth due to tidal acceleration, resonances may occur which will cause large oscillations of the obliquity.[19]

Earth's seasonsMain article: Season

The axis of a planet remains oriented in the same direction with reference to the background stars regardless of where it is in its orbit. Northern hemisphere summer occurs at the right side of this diagram, where the north pole (red) is directed toward the Sun, winter at the left.The Earth's axis remains tilted in the same direction with reference to the background stars throughout a year (throughout its entire orbit). This means that one pole (and the associated hemisphere of the Earth) will be directed away from the Sun at one side of the orbit, and half an orbit later (half a year later) this pole will be directed towards the Sun. This is the cause of the Earth's seasons. Variations in Earth's axial tilt can influence the seasons and is likely a factor in long-term climate change.[20]




https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axial_tilt

It is quite possible that the Planet Game of Thrones is in doesn't have a moon to stablized its axis, and therefore planetary forces will force the planet to tilt in a certain way depending on how far/close they are and how much gravity they exert on the planet. Every Planet would rotate around the sun at different speed and have different mass... but the frequency would still be predictable. So Winter may come when a nearby planet with large mass is about to come close and thus tilting the axis... causing more extreme temperature between the two hemispheres and in extreme cases, forcing one pole to always face the sun and the other side always facing away from the sun like Uranus. (It won't be that extreme.. a planet like that would be completely inhospital)
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby MarkSmash » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:54 pm UTC

Nylonathatep wrote:It is quite possible that the Planet Game of Thrones is in doesn't have a moon to stablized its axis, and therefore planetary forces will force the planet to tilt in a certain way depending on how far/close they are and how much gravity they exert on the planet. Every Planet would rotate around the sun at different speend and have different mass... but the frequency would still be predictable. So Winter may come when a nearby planet with large mass is about to come close and thus tilting the axis... causing more extreme temperature between the two hemispheres and in extreme cases, forcing one pole to always face the sun and the other side always facing away from the sun like Uranus. (It won't be that extreme.. a planet like that would be completely inhospital)


According to episode 3, planet Westeros has a moon. When Rob's wife is scaring the Lannister kids, she says they're safe from Rob turning into a wolf and eating them as long as there's no full moon. Be that as it may, it's interesting to think that the existence of the moon having such a profound effect on stabilizing our climate and while getting it blown up can really eff things up.


Also, on a significantly more immature note:

uranus ... hee...
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby mosc » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:53 pm UTC

Yes, the moon and it's role in the development of a climate stable enough for what we think of as animal life is not fully appreciated by many people. We not only have a moon, but it's a nice ratio to the earth. Small enough to be completely dominated by the earth in terms of the orbit around the sun (the center of mass for our binary pairing around the sun is within the earth's sphere at any time) but large enough to pull and tug, acting as a very subtle and supportive rotational anchor. One of the theories on why Earth and Mars have different climates today is believed to be the more extreme rotational instability possible on Mars due to it's much smaller moons. Phobos, far bigger than Deimos, looks more like a large captured asteroid than a planetary body a la "the moon".

Mars 6.4185×10^23 kg
Phobos 1.072×10^16 kg
Phobos is about 1/6,000,000th of Mar's mass

Earth 5.9736×10^24 kg
Moon 7.3477 × 10^22 kg
the moon is about 1.23% of earth's mass

This also contrasts with what could be a more extreme pairing with a more massive (by ratio) satellite like pluto/charon

Pluto 1.305×10^22 kg
Charon 1.52×10^21 kg
Charon is 11.6% of Pluto's mass

So yes, playing with rotational momentum, the oval stretch of the orbit, moon(s) relative size, orbital distance, a lot of cyclical behavior is quite possible.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:35 am UTC

Yes, I know it's been a few months, but this is still on the top page of Movie and TV Show threads. (If others are still reading and want me to move this to Science or Fictional Science, let me know).
MarkSmash wrote:If, like Earth, the year is determined sunrise/sunset locations on the horizon
...axial tilt must be considerably different than Earth, or completely nonexistant.
If the sun rises at different places on the horizon over the course of a year, then there must be some axial tilt. Otherwise it'd be the same every day: rise due east and set due west.

Nylonathatep wrote:one pole to always face the sun and the other side always facing away from the sun like Uranus.
Neither pole is permanently toward or away from the Sun on Uranus.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby timhmn » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:08 pm UTC

I received the series for christmas and as kind of an astronomy geek have been thinking about this as well. My first inclination was to think that there is a variable star for a sun. But I do think there could be more going on adding to the unpredictability. Somewhere there was mention of Winterfell being build around hot springs. What if the GOT world had a slightly larger or closer moon which had the effect of making the planet more active volcanically? So lets say every few years you get a pretty good sized volcano eruption or two (hence references to the sun being 'hidden'). A really big eruption happens less frequently, like every 50 or 100 years. Combine that with a variable star and you could have a set of "regular" seasons (normal tilt, orbit, etc) but the volcanos with a slightly more obvious solar cycle combine in ways to make some seasons a lot longer than others, and in ways that can't be predicted.
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Re: A Plausible Planetary system for Game of Thrones?

Postby mosc » Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:38 pm UTC

I think a volcanic cycle would imply some more substantial gravitational interaction and planetary instability. There are lots of other implications there that make the world a lot less likely. I think a GoT climate model could be made though playing with:
1) The size of the moon (1.23% of the earth. Make it bigger)
2) Orbital distance (put the earth a little further out but from a brighter star, for example)
3) Angle between solar and planetary rotation (Earth is 23 degrees, raise it)
4) Wobble (called Precession. Earth is 1.38 degrees per 100 years, increase it). Can be done through #1
5) In a more extreme example, pull Jupiter in a good bit closer and give the earth a slightly more eliptical orbit promoting Apsidal Precession. You could make some really funky cycles. This is also a possible theory on why Mars got messed up a few billion years back (See earlier comment on planetary instability from too much of a variable gravitational force)
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