Ackarra

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Ackarra
Astrography
Star Szon
Type Primordial planet
Satellites Klathos
Gravity 0.7 G
Orbital distance 1.6 AU
Day length 27.2 hours
Year length 674.8 standard days
Diameter 9,078 km
Axial tilt 21.5°
Temperature
Average -20°F
Minimum -289°F
Maximum 37°F
Atmosphere
Composition 89% nitrogen, 9% oxygen, 1% argon, 1% neon, 1% other
Surface pressure 0.6 atm
Demographics
Population 1,109,823,034
Imports Helium-3
Exports Silicon, iron

Ackarra (ancient name Dastralda or Distorting Star) was the fifth planet of the Szon system. It was located on the outer edge of Szon's life zone and just barely supported life. The planet was also known for being the first extraplanetary Karalian Empire colony. Before its orbital mechanics were mapped out, ancient astronomers knew it as Dastralda, the Distorting Star. At the time, it was not known to have a very large moon. When the planet's moon was discovered by a Second Age astronomer couple - Klathos and his wife Ackarra - the planet and moon were named after the two of them.

Atmosphere

Ackarra is a young planet. Life had only clambered to the surface 20 million years ago, though it was primarily restricted to lichens and algae. Because of this, Ackarra had excess nitrogen in its atmosphere which had yet to be utilized by the planet's flora. Although still breathable by Vaikan, the atmosphere would cause nitrogen intoxication to species from oxygen-rich environments. However, the atmosphere was just barely breathable, and even to Vaikan, the air was thin with little oxygen. During the day, the sky was a light purple color caused by the large amounts of ionized nitrogen.

Weather on Ackarra was highly volatile and unpredictable. The planet's thin atmosphere gave it a very wide temperature range. During noon when temperatures peaked at their highest, some of the ice around the equator began to melt, and that water later evaporated after being exposed to the sun. Thunder clouds began forming but during and after sunset, wintry mix and hail came down instead of rain. Ackarra's hailstorms were powerful enough to damage structures, and many safety precautions had to be undertaken.

Geography

Ackarra was covered in less than 5% surface water. The poles had two enormous ice caps that covered most of the planet except for an equatorial, unexposed band of gray rock with several patches of lichen surrounding the few bodies of water on the surface.

Surprising for this planet, Ackarra was actively volcanic and had shifting continental plates. Tidal pulls from Ackarra's giant, silver moon, Klathos, caused geysers to spew out that almost immediately refroze, leaving a landscape of crystal spires. Large glaciers had carved out large lakes, that after getting heated by the planet's geothermal heat had allowed stable liquid water on the surface to exist.

As Ackarra was the closest habitable planet to Szon's asteroid belt, impact craters were more than common. Such asteroids delivered organic molecules and water ice onto the planet, and eventually created the planet's underground oceans. Some of the lakes on the surface connected to these vast oceans allowing for some of the planet's hidden sea creatures to be discovered.

Biosphere

Ackarra evolved a primitive, yet vibrant ecosystem within its lakes and oceans. The creatures consisted of arthropod and mollusk analogues, most of which are bioluminiscent. The ecosystem predominantly survives near large geothermal vents, but with the advancement of lichens to the surface, photosynthetic algae has evolved. Entire ecosystems of both microbes and macroscopic zooplankton flourishes towards the surface of Ackarra's lakes.

Although no multicellular fauna lived on the surface, the caverns below Ackarra's ice caps supported an entirely different ecosystem. The moon Klathos tugged on these ice caps causing glaciers to slide among the thick ice sheets. Combined with volcanism, the resulting meltwater carved out tunnels and carried organic molecules into these regions. This was how Ackarra's underground oceans formed, but some parts of these caverns remained exposed to the air allowing for some other types of creatures to evolve, such as the Ice Mole, an arthropod analog that digged its way through the soil using large claw-like appendages. Creatures similar to the Ice Mole created tunnels and burrows deep below Ackarra's ice sheets allowing water to seep below.

In additional, the staple crop known as Geolichen, a lichen-type growth able to produce potato-like pods, was native to Ackarra's environment, growing near geothermal vents and mineral rich areas. Geolichen pods were often fed upon by bat-like creatures known as Desmodans whose guano serves as a pollination method. Geolichen's ability to survive in hostile environments lead to it being adapted as an interstellar cash crop.

Colonization

Settlements on Ackarra were around the equator built around the planet's lakes. Building a self-sufficient colony was relatively easy. As a result, Ackarra's population exploded allowing it to become one of the most populated non-capital planets owned by the Karalian Empire. A population of just over one billion lived across the different settlements.

Agriculture was fairly easy due to the nitrogen, rich atmosphere and already nutrient-filled soil. Imported crops had to be grown in greenhouses due to Ackarra's chilling temperatures, but the native Geolichen served as a hardy, thriving alternative.

Moon

Ackarra's moon Klathos was coated with layers of palladium and platinum. It was roughly one fourth the size of Ackarra, and some considered it to be a double planet. The moon was mined for its minerals. The surface was considered uninhabitable due to the lack of a thick atmosphere although anaerobic microbes made their home just below the planet's surface.

During the era of the Second Galactic Senate, the face of the goddess Sashelma was carved onto the tidally locked side of Klathos facing Ackarra's surface. It was large enough to be seen clearly from the surface of Ackarra. Though some considered it a defacement, others regarded it as a form of large scale art. There were petitions to rename the moon to Sashelma, but the ancient name of Klathos stayed.