The Catacombs The Continuity Guide
Technical Facilities
by Martin Willey

9.2 Measurement

Catacombs Of The Moon

Scientific units of measurement are confused between metric and Imperial/English units (reflecting US and UK confusion- a source of several real-life miscalculations in space missions).

Temperature is given in Fahrenheit in The Last Sunset, Death's Other Dominion, A Matter Of Balance, The Rules Of Luton & Journey To Where, yet is in centigrade in Matter Of Life And Death, Collision Course, The Mark Of Archanon, The Beta Cloud & Catacombs Of The Moon. Miles and feet are always used (metres are only used in Ring Around The Moon, Alpha Child & The Last Sunset). Koenig even asks Maya in The A B Chrysalis how she converts from her "fractions of an ellipse" to "miles per hour, feet per second, our system".

The other main unit of measurement is the light year (Ring Around The Moon, Missing Link, End Of Eternity, Dragon's Domain, The Testament Of Arkadia, One Moment Of Humanity, Space Warp). Parsecs are mentioned in The Taybor ("Sixty-eight parsecs from the notorious Frontier Worlds of Shmagod" - i.e. 221 light years).

9.2 Celestial Coordinates

Lunar sky co-ordinates are given in either quadrants or "orbital references". Quadrants are numbered in Space Warp (where the derelict spaceship is in the "third quadrant") but usually there are references to points of the compass instead. Thus, Koenig in Dorzak, Jarak's ships in Alpha Child and Luton in The Rules Of Luton are in the North Quadrant; the Dorcons are in the West Quadrant; Ellna in Devil's Planet & the Beta Cloud are in the East Quadrant.

It seems the lunar sky coordinate system is based on the same principle as the equatorial coordinate system used by terrestrial astronomers, i.e. the positions of objects in space are projected upon an imaginary celestial sphere which have axes parallel to the polar axis and equator. This is convenient as the axis of rotation points at the same part of the sky all year long. The "celestial latitude" on an object in the lunar sky can then be measured from the "celestial equator" which is simply the projection of the lunar equator onto the sky. Thus we end up with four arbitrarily named 90x90 square degree quadrants covering the sky within 45 degrees northern and southern latitude, plus one north and one south quadrant centred on the poles.

Celestial coordinates - thanks to Marcus Lindroos

Diagram summarising the approximate location of some important celestial objects in the lunar sky. The north and south quadrants most likely refer to the moon's north and south pole which remain fixed in space unless the moon is tumbling wildly in its orbit. However, "east" and "west" will be meaningful indicators of celestial longitude only if the moon has ceased rotating about its axis. This does not seem to be the case, so the Alphans presumably have defined an arbitrary but fixed direction in space as their "Greenwich meridian". A logical choice might be the lunar apex or direction that the Moon travels through deep space (perhaps towards the "Blue Quadrant" explored by Koenig in The Mark Of Archanon) while the opposite direction -- the lunar antapex -- is 180 degrees away. The east and west quadrants are assumed to be perpendicular to the apex and antapex.

Voyager's Return

This orbital diagram appears in Voyager's Return. There seems to be a celestial coordinate system with longitudes numbered 0 .. 36. The clockwise numbering suggests the vantage point is above the lunar south pole, i.e. directly above Alpha. The concentric circles presumably indicate distance from the lunar equator, perhaps in lunar radii (note that the scale seems to be logarithmic).

The exact position of a spacecraft is normally given as a three digit "orbital reference". Orbital references include 397 (Space Brain), 109 (Dragon's Domain), 367 (The Mark Of Archanon), 348, 326 & 319 (War Games) & 349 (Collision Course).

9.4 Sensors & Scanners

The Moonbase uses a wide range of "sensors" and "scanners".

Scanners are seen on Alpha buildings in Force Of Life and The Metamorph. According to Collision Course, Alpha has "orbital satellites" (a computer panel in Year 2 is labelled "Satellites"). Among the long range systems are radio mappers (Another Time, Another Place), astro-shots (Guardian Of Piri), and spectrographic analysis (The Last Enemy).

A life signs sensor is frequently used. Cellini orders "Put the booster on every band in the life spectrum" in Dragon's Domain. In Alpha Child "Computer finds some form of life indicated, but not human. Without previous experience we cannot identify it." Maya reports in All That Glisters "Some kind of life form is registering. Minimal and unidentifiable". In Devil's Planet the sensor distinguishes vegetation, but no other life forms; presumably Maya is excluding vegetation when she walks through the forest in A Matter Of Balance proclaiming "No life forms". Life signs are also used in Earthbound, Mission Of The Darians, The Metamorph, The Mark Of Archanon, The A B Chrysalis, The Beta Cloud, The Immunity Syndrome & The Dorcons (see also The Last Enemy: "Computer suggests the left hand planet supports intelligent life", The Infernal Machine: "Sensors indicate a body", The Testament Of Arkadia:" Every indication told us it was devoid of any form of life").

A space warp detector is acquired in Space Warp, and appeared in A Matter Of Balance (in the Eagle passenger module), The Lambda Factor (in the Engineering workshop), The Seance Spectre (in Command Centre), Devil's Planet (in Eagle 1, showing a street plan) and The Immunity Syndrome (in Eagle 4).

Occasionally "interstellar strength" communications are used. These seem to be immune to normal radio static. According to Collision Course, not all Eagles are equipped with it, although Alpha's orbital satellites are. In Space Brain and Death's Other Dominion "interstellar strength" is referred to. Perhaps related is the "subspace frequency 220" used in The Testament Of Arkadia and the "channel D4" used to contact hyperspace in The Taybor.

Copyright Martin Willey
Thanks to Marcus Lindroos