Deneb in fiction
The Star Deneb
Deneb (Alpha Cygni), a luminous blue-white supergiant of spectral type A2Ia in the constellation Cygnus, shines prominently in the night sky—despite its lying at the inordinate distance of some 1550 light-years—and it is frequently employed as a remote location, faraway destination, or alien home sun in works of fiction (see "Dead Ahead" by Jack Vance and The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey, below). Deneb's absolute magnitude is approximately −7.0, one of the greatest intrinsic brightnesses of any known star, which gives it an estimated luminosity nearly 60,000 times that of our Sun (see "Uncommon Sense" by Hal Clement, below). It appears to have a diameter of about 110 times that of the Sun[note 1] (see graphic), but a mass only 20 times as great—bespeaking a tenuous average density approximately 10−5 times that of our own star.[note 2]
The classification of Deneb as a blue-white supergiant, its mass (~20 solar masses, ), and its surface temperature (~8400 K) mean that the star will enjoy but a short lifespan and probably go supernova within a few million years. Its stellar wind causes it to lose mass at a rate of 8×10−7 /yr, a hundred thousand times the flow rate from the Sun.
Deneb is the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus and the nineteenth brightest star in the night sky, with an apparent visual magnitude of 1.25. It is a vertex of the Summer Triangle, the other two vertices being the bright stars Altair and Vega (see High Sierra, below).
The name Deneb is from the Arabic (ذنب الدجاجة dhanab ad-dajājah), which translates literally as tail of the hen.[note 3] In Chinese, "天津" (Tiān Jīn), meaning Celestial Ford, refers to an asterism consisting of Deneb and eight other stars in Cygnus (see graphic, below). In a legendary Chinese love story, Deneb marks the location of the magpie bridge across the Milky Way, which allows two lovers represented by the stars Altair and Vega—the other two vertices of the Summer Triangle—to be reunited on one special night of the year in late summer (See Qi Xi, below).
General uses of Deneb
Deneb may be referred to in fictional works for its metaphorical (meta) or mythological (myth) associations, or else as a bright point of light in the sky of the Earth, but not as a location in space or the center of a planetary system:
- Qi Xi (206 BCE – 220 CE), "the night of sevens," festival honoring a Han dynasty legend. The young cowherd Niú Láng (Altair) meets by chance and marries Zhī Nŭ the weavergirl (Vega), seventh daughter of the Celestial Goddess; the two live happily together and have a pair of children (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae). The Goddess, furious that Zhī Nŭ has married a mere mortal, orders her home to resume her day job weaving colorful clouds. Niú Láng follows her, but is not unnoticed by the mother, who angrily uses her hairpin to scratch a wide river in the sky—the Milky Way—to separate the lovers forever. Once a year all the magpies in the world take pity on them and fly up to heaven to form a bridge over the star Deneb in Cygnus, so that they may be together for a single night (see graphic). (myth)
- High Sierra (1941), film written by John Huston and W. R. Burnett, and directed by Raoul Walsh. On his way to a planned heist in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) meets Velma (Joan Leslie). Under the night sky one romantic evening, he points out various stars to her: [ROY] ... you see different stars at different times. They change with the seasons. See that other bright star sorta northeast of Vega? That's Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, I think. I'm getting kind of rusty... [Velma's face is upward, her hair falls back. Roy looks at it. Their hands meet.] (sky)
- Eden (1959), novel written by Stanisław Lem. A starship crew—a captain, a doctor, an engineer, a chemist, a physicist and a cyberneticist—crash land for an unknown reason on an alien world they call Eden. They make a series of increasingly odd discoveries, culminating in contact with the totalitarian doubler civilization, ruled by a dictatorship that denies its own existence and is thus impossible to destroy. After a day of upsetting events, the crew sit around a camp stove talking, then: ... When they extinguished the stove, they were plunged into total darkness. The stars above sparkled intensely in what seemed a peculiarly low sky. "Deneb," said the Physicist softly. The men looked up… (sky)
- Cygnus X-1 (1977-1978), duology of progressive rock songs by Rush. In this allegory, a space explorer uses the black hole Cygnus X-1 as a portal to Olympus where he encounters a Nietzschean conflict, couched in terms of Greek mythology, between the Apollonian and Dionysian world views. The star Deneb (also in Cygnus, four times closer to the Earth) serves as his guiding light to the more distant, invisible singularity: I set a course just east of Lyra/ ... /Flew into the light of Deneb/Sailed across the Milky Way/ ... /Headed for the heart of Cygnus/Headlong into mystery ... (myth, meta)
There follow references to Deneb as a location in space or the center of a planetary system, categorized by genre:
In the listing below, the majority of literary references to Deneb occurred in the score of years after 1943, the star's banner year as a cynosure when its spectrum was selected as one of the stable anchor points by which all other stars' spectra would be classified. There followed a hiatus of 30 years, until a cluster of works representing renewed interest in the star appeared around the year 1990.
- #15. Star of Dread (1943) and other books in the Captain Future series, number written by Edmond Hamilton. Captain Future is Curtis Newton, a brilliant scientist and adventurer who roams the Solar System solving problems, righting wrongs, and vanquishing supervillains. All of the planets of the system and many of the moons and asteroids are suitable for life, and most are inhabited by humanoids. Future and his sidekicks the Futuremen visit the planet Aar in the Deneb system (see graphic), which is the origin of Earth humans, as well as many manlike races across the Solar System and beyond.
- "Uncommon Sense" (1945), short story by Hal Clement. After his two-man crew mutinies, skipper Laird Cunningham disables his space-boat and maroons the craft on a sun-blasted moonlike planet of Deneb. Clement indulges in a seductive—and technically plausible—description of the world's outrageous native life forms: predators whose "blood" is liquid metal, "eyes" that are actually pinhole cameras for straight-trajectoried gas molecules. Using his uncommon ingenuity, Cunningham is able to exploit these biological peculiarities to regain control of his ship and imprison the mutineers, acting out the classic hard science fiction theme of solving a scientific puzzle set up by the conditions of an alien world.
- "Dead Ahead" (1950), short story published as "Ultimate Quest" in Super Science Stories and written by Jack Vance as by John Holbrook. The story's protagonist Chiram wants to circumnavigate the universe. The inventor of the inertialess destriation FTL drive, he believes that the four-dimensional manifold of space-time is a closed Riemannian sphere (see graphic), and that if he flies in a perfectly straight line far enough and fast enough, he will return to his starting point, the Earth, in his lifetime. But if he deviates by even the tiniest amount from a straight line, or if the universe is open (Ω0 ≤ 1), then he will wander, lost in space, forever. The dramatic tension in the story derives from the mid-course detection of a minuscule divergence from dead-straight, the deduction of the cause, the putative correction, and the unpredictable denouement of the voyage. As he sets out, Chiram aims his ship for and soon passes by Deneb: "Dead ahead was Deneb—the line of their way around the universe." As one of the most distant of the sky's prominent stars, Deneb serves as a stable beacon for firmly locking in unchanging bearings on the crucial first leg of the journey.
- "A Place in the Sun" (1956), short story written by Milton S. Lesser as by Stephen Marlowe, published in Amazing Stories. The elan (personality essence) of Galactic Federation special agent Johnny Mayhem is instantaneously transmitted from Canopus to Deneb City on Deneb IV—the site of recent civil disturbances—where the usual dead body is waiting for him in cold storage. But there's a mixup, and instead he comes to under a cold shower on a spaceship that is plunging straight toward a fiery annihilation in the Sun. He turns off the needle spray. He dries himself off. He ponders his options...
- "The Feeling of Power" (1958), short story by Isaac Asimov. The Terrestrial Federation is at war with Deneb, and it depends on hand-held devices startlingly similar to the digital pocket calculators that would be unavailable until after 1971, more than a dozen years after Asimov's prescient story. In the tale, humans have long since forgotten how to perform even the most elementary arithmetic by hand until Myron Aub, a low grade Technician, notices certain recurring patterns in the output of his apparatus—and proceeds to figure out and share the underlying algorithms and methods. The idea catches on, and the newfound ability of humans to perform calculations on their own revolutionizes the Federation and the war, as men rediscover the "feeling of power" inherent in spontaneous reckoning. Asimov would later substantially abandon using any real star names such as Deneb in his stories.
- "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" (1960), short story by Mack Reynolds, published in Amazing Stories. So, a couple of aliens walk into a bar... Conversation ensues. "I felt your mind probe back a few minutes ago ... Telepathy is a sense not trained by the humanoids. If they had it, your job—and mine—would be considerably more difficult. Let's face it, in spite of these human bodies we're disguised in, neither of us is humanoid. Where are you really from, Rupert?"/ "Aldebaran," I said. "How about you?"/ "Deneb," he told me, shaking. We had a laugh and ordered another beer. "What're you doing here on Earth?" I asked him./ "Researching for one of our meat trusts. We're protein eaters. Humanoid flesh is considered quite a delicacy. How about you?"/ "Scouting the place for thrill tourists. My job is to go around to these backward cultures and help stir up inter-tribal, or international, conflicts—all according to how advanced they are."
- "The Machine that Won the War" (1961), short story by Isaac Asimov. This story, also involving war with Deneb, exploits a theme similar to that of Asimov's "Feeling of Power": human versus machine capabilities, and the ultimate superiority of mankind's native unaugmented intelligence.
- Roadside Picnic (1972), short Russian-language novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (English trans 1977). Aliens from the star Deneb visit the Earth and sojourn briefly in six areas that subsequently become known as the Visitation Zones. Such zones exhibit strange and dangerous phenomena not understood by humans, and contain artifacts with inexplicable, seemingly supernatural properties—possibly the analogs of "picnic refuse," carelessly discarded by the Denebians. The tale narrates the adventures of a fraternity of plunderers who make a living looting artifacts from the Zones—not infrequently with discomfiting results.
- Hyperion (1989), first novel in the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons. Humanity has spread across the galaxy, and makes profligate, casual use of farcaster technology to travel instantly between any two points in space (to its ultimate rue). The eponymous Hyperion Cantos is an epic poem written by the character Martin Silenus. In his own words, "... My "few weeks to polish up the Cantos turned into ten months of obsessive labor. I shut off most of the rooms in the house, keeping only the tower room on Deneb Drei, the exercise room on Lusus, the kitchen, and the bathroom raft on Mare Infinitus..." Deneb Drei (Deneb III, in German) and Deneb Vier (Deneb IV) are inhabited planets in the Deneb system, just two of dozens of richly detailed planets featured in the single novel that by itself would make Dan Simmons one of the half-dozen central science fiction figures of the 1980s.
- The Rowan (1990), and other novels in "The Tower and the Hive" series by Anne McCaffrey. Jeff Raven is a native of Deneb VIII, home to a large population of untrained Wild Talents ("...And now, on Deneb, a T-1 [highest category telepathic talent] had emerged, out of nowhere—and so very, very far away."). He is somehow able to contact the Rowan telepathically across some 1600 light-years of space, informing her that his homeworld is under attack by aliens of the bug-like Hive. She warns Earth Prime, who doesn't credit the alarum until Jeff contrives a convincing—and fearsome—practical demonstration. The two telepaths subsequently engage in multiple adventures and a torrid physical relationship with each other.
- Honor Harrington (1993- ), series of novels written by David Weber. The Deneb star system is where the Honorverse's rules of war, the Deneb Accords (similar to the Geneva Conventions) were negotiated under the sponsorship of the Solarian League (see map). Non-signatories to the Accords can be bad actors indeed, indulging in both torture and rape: "... the Admiralty knew when they sent us out that neither Masada nor Grayson had ever signed the Deneb Accords—and that they were both ... a bit backward, shall we say? We all know how POWS can be abused..." The Accords are "honored" most prominently—more in the breach than in the observance—with at least seven appearances in the eighth book of the series, Echoes of Honor, where Harrington is herself captured and apparently "executed" by the People's Republic of Haven.
Film and television
The items in this subsection all refer to works in the film, television, and print franchise originated by Gene Roddenberry.
- "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (1966), second pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by Samuel A. Peeples. The powerful—and dangerous—newly minted telepath Gary Mitchell reminisces with his old friend Captain Kirk about a wild shore leave they once spent together on Deneb IV, a planet of paranormal adepts, where he had already displayed high psychic potential. Mitchell embellishes his side of the account with the tale of an intense romantic encounter with a Denebian woman he describes as a "nova." (For a contrasting perspective on Mitchell's views about women see "walking freezer unit.")
- "I, Mudd" (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by Gene Roddenberry and David Gerrold (uncredited). The USS Enterprise is hijacked by a mysterious android and taken to an unnamed planet, populated by hundreds of thousands of his fellows, and by one Harcourt Fenton Mudd, a hapless con-man known to Captain Kirk. The androids, assisted by Harry Mudd, plot to commandeer the Enterprise, take over the galaxy, and control—and serve—humanity forever in a sort of cosmic nanny state. The crew of the Enterprise overcome their robotic captors by using the classic ruse of beguiling them with paradoxes, but not before Mr. Spock has occasion to remind Mudd of the penalty for fraud on Deneb V: capital punishment, with the means freely chosen by the condemned. (Compare Rigel: "Mudd's Women".)
- "The Trouble With Tribbles (1967), episode of Star Trek: The Original Series written by David Gerrold. The USS Enterprise pulls into Deep Space Station K7 where trouble immediately starts with the crew of a Klingon battle cruiser on shore leave, and the Enterprise suffers an infestation of tribbles, adorable balls of fluff that multiply without bound and eat everything in sight. Things go from bad to worse, as Korax, the Klingon first officer, calls Captain Kirk a Denebian slime devil and the tribbles all die of an unknown cause—later revealed to be the unintended consequence of a Klingon plot.
- "Encounter at Farpoint" (1987), two-hour pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation written by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. Captain Picard and the crew of the newly built USS Enterprise-D examine the mysterious Farpoint Station in orbit around Deneb IV, which the enigmatic Bandi are offering to the Federation—all as he labors under the judgmental gaze of a powerful alien entity that calls itself Q. At Farpoint, Picard wants to fire on a mysterious hostile craft, but is warned off by Q, so he sends an away team instead. Mysteries multiply as the team, the crew, and Picard discover that the station is both more and less than it seems, but the enigma is finally resolved and everything is put to rights, to the apparent—if temporary—satisfaction of Q.
Other film and television
- Blake's 7 (1978-1981), television series created and mostly written by Terry Nation. Roj Blake, a political dissident is arrested, tried and convicted on false charges and deported to the prison planet Cygnus Alpha (see graphic). He and two fellow prisoners commandeer an abandoned alien spacecraft, rescue two more prisoners and are joined by an alien guerrilla with telepathic abilities. The group conducts an ineffectual campaign against the totalitarian Terran Federation. Similar to Star Wars in its theme of free spirited rebels versus the oppressive empire, the series is notably different in tone: the rebels are quarrelsome, depressive, pessimistic, cynical—and in the end they assassinate Blake himself (he may be a traitor).
- Babylon 5 (1993–1998), television series developed and written by J. Michael Straczynski. Deneb IV is a large Earth settlement and the largest colony market in its part of the galaxy. It is one of 23 colonies in the Earth Alliance, one of the galaxy's major powers (although not the most powerful) in the Babylon 5 universe, and a hotbed of prophecies, religious zealotry, racial tensions, social pressures and political rivalries.
- Aquila (1997-1998), British children's television show created by Andrew Norriss. School chums Geoff and Tom discover a long abandoned artifact which they come to realize is an ancient spaceboat—named the Aquila—that crashlanded on the Bristol moors during Roman times. Over the course of several episodes they master functions of the craft that include flight, invisibility, lasers, and holographic video recording. The boys have many thrilling adventures. Late in Season 1 they learn that the Aquila is a lifeboat from a derelict battle cruiser in far orbit around the Sun, built thousands of years ago by the vanished race of Yrrillians from the planet Deneb.[note 4]
- The Silver Surfer #1 et seq (1968- ), comic books created by Jack Kirby in the Marvel Comics universe. Zenn-La is the third planet of Deneb (Deneb III), best known as the homeworld of the Silver Surfer. Zenn-Lavians, humanoid in appearance, have lifespans of thousands of years. Zenn-La has a tumultuous history: No less than three times it is totally destroyed, with all its biosphere and all its inhabitants, and subsequently recreated in toto, alternately exiling and appealing for help from the Surfer, and oscillating between cultures of hedonistic apathy and scientific zealotry.
- Traveller (1977), role-playing game developed and published by the Game Designers' Workshop. The Domain of Deneb is a region of the Imperium in the universe of Traveller game. It includes the Deneb Sector, whose capital is at Deneb itself. In the Traveller universe, Deneb is closer to Earth and shines with less intrinsic brightness than the actual star.
- Descent: FreeSpace – The Great War (1998), computer game developed by Volition, Inc. and published by Interplay Entertainment. Deneb is the location of two major battles fought by the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance. The first Battle of Deneb occurs in 2335 between the Shivan Super Destroyer Lucifer with its fleet and a joint Terran-Vasudan force; during the melee the Lucifer disappears, slips through subspace, and launches a devastating surprise attack on Vasuda Prime. The second Battle of Deneb occurs in 2367 between the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance and the Neo-Terran Front in a 72-hour long fight for control of the system. The planets of Deneb include Cygnus Prime, Deneb II, and Deneb III.
- Earth & Beyond (2002), online role-playing game developed by Westwood Studios and published by Electronic Arts. The Deneb system lurks in the outskirts of the inhabited universe.
- Vendetta Online (2004), online role-playing game developed and published by Guild Software. Two of the three great factions in the Vendetta Online universe are the Itani Nation, reputed for their advanced science and light maneuverable ships, and the Serco Dominion, a warrior culture with slow, heavily armored vessels. In the year 4063 a Sercan invasion of Itani space culminates at Deneb, the last bastion before the Itani home system of Eo. The Sercan navy is carrying the day, and just beginning to destroy the last Itani remnants among the icy boulders of Aeron's Icefield, when suddenly the Akanese Obsidian Armada drops into normal space to succor them and turn the tide. The Serco retreat, their invasion stalled. Deneb remains the boundary between the factions' territories.
Deneb is referred to as a location in space or the center of a planetary system unusually often in fiction. For a list containing many stars and planetary systems that have a less extensive list of references, see Stars and planetary systems in fiction.
Notes and references
- In a sort of cosmic coincidence, this is the same as the ratio of the Sun's diameter to the Earth's: The sequence of radii , , Deneb is geometric.
- The relative average density is (relative mass)/(relative volume) ≈ 20/1103 ≈ 0.000015.
- Arab astronomers gave parallel names to at least seven different stars, most notably Deneb Kaitos, the brightest star in the constellation Cetus, the whale; Deneb Algedi, the brightest star in Capricornus, the goat; and Denebola, the second brightest star in Leo, the lion. All these stars are referring to the tail of the animals that their respective constellations represent.
Deneb in star names as the tail of constellations
- Given the spaceboat Aquila's name, it is somewhat surprising that the writers did not choose to make the Yrrillian planet of origin Altair (Alpha Aquilae) rather than Deneb (Alpha Cygni).
- "Deneb". The Dome of the Sky. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
- Apellániz, J Maíz; Alfaro, E J; Sota, A (2008). "Accurate distances to nearby massive stars with the new reduction of the Hipparcos raw data". arXiv:0804.2553 [astro-ph].
- "Summer Triangle". The Internet Encyclopedia of Science. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- Allen, Richard Hinckley (1963). Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning. Mineola, NY: Dover Books. p. 195. ISBN 0-486-21079-0.
- "Starmap: Summer Triangle spanning the Milky Way". The Internet Encyclopedia of Science. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- Brown, Ju; Brown, John (2006). China, Japan, Korea Culture and Customs: Culture and Customs. Charleston, SC: BookSurge Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 1-4196-4893-4.
- Yuan, Haiwang; Williams, Michael Ann (2006). Magic Lotus Lantern and Other Tales from the Han Chinese. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. pp. 105–107. ISBN 1-59158-294-6.
- Lem, Stanisław (1989). Eden. trans Marc E Heine. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. p. 46. ISBN 0-15-127580-7.
- "Cygnus X-1 Lyrics". LyricsFreak. Stanza 2. Retrieved 2012-02-13.
- Garrison, R F (December 1993), Anchor Points for the MK System of Spectral Classification, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 25: 1319, Bibcode:1993AAS...183.1710G, retrieved 2012-02-14
- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Hamilton, Edmond M". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 538. ISBN 0-312-13486-X. Hamilton spent much of the early 1940s creating the juvenile Captain Future series complete with a future history of various human species originating in the Deneb system, a collection at the same time better written and less lively than his groundbreaking trademark space operas.
- Benford, Gregory (2000). Nebula Awards Showcase 2000. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 150. ISBN 0-15-600705-3.
- Soyka, David. "Nebula Awards Showcase 2000". SF Site. Retrieved 2012-02-13.
- Vance, Jack (2005). "Dead Ahead" 3. Multiple editors. Oakland, California: The Vance Integral Edition. p. 34. ISBN 0-9712375-1-4.
- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Asimov, Isaac". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. pp. 55–60. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
- Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris. "Introduction...". Roadside Picnic. New York: Macmillan. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
- Simmons, Dan (1989). Hyperion. New York: Bantam Books. p. 179. ISBN 0-553-28368-5.
- Simmons, Dan (1989). Hyperion. New York: Bantam Books. p. 200. ISBN 0-553-28368-5.
- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Simmons, Dan". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 1111. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
- McCaffrey, Anne (1990). The Rowan. New York: Ace. p. 151. ISBN 0-441-73576-2.
- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "McCaffrey, Anne". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 747. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
- Weber, David (1995). #5. Flag in Exile. Riverdale, NY: Baen Publishing Enterprises. p. 123. ISBN 0-671-31980-9.
- Weber, David (1998). #8. Echoes of Honor. Riverdale, NY: Baen Publishing Enterprises. pp. 4; 195; 211; 543; 554; 557; 672. ISBN 0-671-57833-2.
- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1993). "Blake’s Seven". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St Martin’s Griffin. p. 133. ISBN 0-312-13486-X.
- King, Larry. "Planets of the Earth Alliance". Science Fiction Timeline Site • Babylon Five History Page. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
- Spelling, Ian (1996-11-21). "'Babylon 5' Plans Explosive 4th Season". Chicago Tribune (reprinted from The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
- Gruenwald, Mark; Sanderson, Peter (1987). The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition 15. New York: Marvel Comics.
- "The Chronicles of Exile: Section 10". Vendetta Online. Retrieved 2012-02-19.