How to Build a Planet in Twelve Easy Steps
Daniel Hudon, firstname.lastname@example.org
1. You’ll need a lot of space. You can’t just build a planet in the basement or the garage. You would have to cut corners, things would get in the way; you would never get it out again. Don’t waste your time. Try to find an unused airplane hangar, or, even better, a vacant lunar base.
2. Decide on a shape. Spherical is always popular, but if you try one of the Platonic solids, like cubic or tetrahedral, you’re sure to get points for originality, even if gravity has the final say. Stargazers won’t know if they’re looking at an orbiting Great Pyramid of Cheops or your new planet. It’s sure to be a hit. And don’t forget dodecahedral – a twelve-sided planet would be cosmic, man.
3. Acquire the proper ingredients. Nobody will be impressed if you just throw a bunch of mud together and squeeze it into a ball. It’s been done. Be creative. Bear in mind that a liquid metallic core goes over big with the geophysicists (magnetic fields, aurora borealis, S and P waves, that sort of thing), but liquids are inherently difficult to work with so you could save that for your second or third planet.
4. Don’t be overly ambitious. In fact, you could probably start with a mixture of Saharan sand, dried leaves and maple syrup. Be liberal with the maple syrup; you’ll need a core that things will stick to. Other kinds of sand will do in a pinch. No one’s going to know. Build from the inside out. You’d be amazed at how many people go from the outside in. They don’t take their work seriously and soon give up. Or they somehow wind up trapped inside. It happens.
5. Don’t skimp on the ingredients. Keep adding layers. Try old rubber tires, library discards (hardcovers work best), and junk mail. Spread it around. Pack it down. How can you expect your planet to hold an atmosphere, or a moon, if you don’t keep packing it down? Add your record collection if you have to. You’re never going to play them again. High school yearbooks, broken-down stationary bicycles, your boxes upon boxes of photographic negatives. Pile them on. It’s your planet, after all.
6. Nobody says the surface has to be smooth but keep the aesthetics in mind when you’re raking it all down. Smooth surfaces reflect more sunlight, which will make your planet easier to see. You don’t want it wandering aimlessly in the dark.
7. When your planet is big enough – aim for at least twice the size of Pluto because as you know, Pluto just got kicked out of the family for being too small – climb up onto it and go for a walk. How does the surface feel between your toes? Does it feel planetary? Can you imagine great oceanic basins, mountain chains and plate tectonics down the road? Can you walk all the way around without falling off? If the ground shifts, you may want to let it settle for a while. Don’t rush it. Take eons if necessary. Quality takes time. Nobody pays attention to detail anymore, but you should.
8. If you fall off, that’s a bad sign. The gravity on your planet is too small – it will never make it in the solar system. You have no choice but to pack on more: Sunday newspapers, disposable coffee cups, old computers. Keep adding until you can walk around without falling off. Gravity is a beautiful thing.
9. Don’t worry about atmospheres, life and all that jazz. If you thought liquids were hard to work with, gases are next to impossible. Finicky, temperamental stuff, you’ll be tinkering forever. Look how screwed up Mars and Venus are. Perpetual dust storms or runaway greenhouse effect. Not pretty. Save your energy. And for all we know, life on Earth was a fluke, or a miracle, or brought in from elsewhere. Don’t waste your time. Building the thing is enough. Let the universe take care of the rest, que sera sera.
10. Choose the name carefully. Once named, the planet is stuck with it for eternity. All the good Roman god names are taken, so have a contest and keep pulling entries until you get something pronounceable from a nine-year-old Inuit girl or a twelve-year-old boy from Kerala. Makes a nice story. Just don’t leave it up to the astronomers or you’ll be stuck with a mouthful like Quaoar (try KWAH-o-ar) or 2003 UB313.
11. When you’re finished building your planet, hoist it up into the heavens. Tether your planet to some hot air balloons or borrow some rockets (the Russians will go for it if the price is right) and lift it up into the atmosphere. For good measure, arrange for a spin to be imparted before it is released – gotta love night and day.
12. Choose the parameters of an elliptical orbit (sorry, thanks to Johannes Kepler, there’s no other choice) for your planet. Set your planet free to roam forever around the sun. Gravity truly is a beautiful thing.