A glass sphere spinning slowly, a long-lived orbit. Black cold through the night, intense light-heat through the day of the planet below. The glass is stonewashed, chipped and frosted; clearer towards the poles. Dawn approaches in a crisp jagged edge across the planet’s surface.
Inside the sphere pale shadows press towards the promise of the day to come. Life shuffles and bends towards the glow some facing it head on; some shift towards the poles looking for softer diffused positions behind the frontier species. The shine of water: Ice softening and melting against the first lit crescent. Towards the centre of the sphere, drifting globes of ice become translucent and mutable. The core of the small world glistens, streams, steams.
Moulds, algae, lichen, on speed. Seeds crack like fireworks, sprout, leaf, bloom, scorch and flare in waves. Becoming the diffusing cushion for the next generation which takes the cycle a little slower, and so back towards the centre of the sphere. The starlight crosses to the further side. The birth and burn follows across the surface of the globe. The blazing light contrasts with the flutter of char and ash falling away from the glass, followed by the return of condensation and ice.
In the core leaves and flowers have a little more time to work with, still they rush to make the most of the possibilities of the day. The light is predictable, the mix of nutrients at hand shifts around the globe in a more variable rhythm. Seeds form and harden, armoured for the coming dark. Using the chill to set a new chemical clock to launch life into the next day. This inside-out world has been repeating its cycle for how long?
We orbit well wide of the planet and its glass ecology. Counterweights are deployed, careful not to tilt this perfect orbit. Staring through windows, screens, sensors, at a surreal and binary countryside and wondering how to reach inside without breaking anything.
We decided to land on the other side of the planet. We used a Doctorow sinter and worked on replicating a sphere. Starting small, experimenting with thickness. No picnic with the sudden dust storms. Moving the project into a crater, out of the winds. Keeping the equipment upwind of the glass works after we shattered an early draft. We gave up on spheres. Back to flatpack facets locked together, pressing against twisted ribs like a yurt designed by Escher.
We took a while to get the pressure right. Higher pressure of steam and hot air during the heat of the day, less extreme at night. Our first lofted ‘sphere’ was smaller than the ship. We frosted the glass as we went, diffusing the light, slowing the loss of evening warmth. We set in monitors, soil from the planet, some precious water, a few chill friendly seeds. Desert varieties, used to clear cold nights and searing heat.
Our current globe we have set around a neighbouring planet. Keeping clear of the original glass Eden. Our globe was still faceted and ribbed. We expect it to wear round in time. It has a cross-cutting x of tunnels through the core to diversify the inner climate and provide an airlocked entry. Some life began to sprout and die. Not all of it could recover in time to do a daily season so we are working on that and looking for signs of indigenous life from the local soil. So much to learn.