What type of star does Athas orbit, scientifically speaking?

(nijineko prismaticpsion) #1

More specifically, does the pattern of magical tampering with Athas’ Sun follow any known star life cycle observed by modern science, and if so, what type of star is it?

By extension, what is the eventual fate of the star, barring more magical tampering, and how much time is left?

Also curious if there are any Dark Sun Spelljammer references (looking for details of other celestial bodies in the Athas solar system)…


You know, I’ve often wondered about that, too. I’d guess a type O star. There is a particular type/mass that can legitimately cycle between a “blue giant”, “yellow hypergiant”, “red supergiant”, and back again. Probably a type of Wolf-Rayet star (?) for most of its life, which means it belches out tons of mutating radiation and clouds in an unstable fashion, if memory serves. It would fit with the pattern set up in the lore, and retain the notion that the star can be dialed back to what it was in a previous age. The stars are short-lived, so life on Athas would need an explanation outside of evolution, but the cycles between colors/sizes do happen on the scale of thousands to tens of thousands of years. Would be great for a game in which a DM wanted to completely lessen the importance of the Pristine Tower, as the star could be held responsible for mutating radiation and its own color/size shifts… maybe even The Grey.

Second to that, I read an article a few months back on “zombie stars” that can go supernova multiple times, but still survive. On principle alone, that screams “Dark Sun” to me.


Nothing official as far as i know, but there is this: http://www.spelljammer.org/worlds/CrimsonSphere/

(John R McDaris) #4

I started thinking about this (and the spelljammer stuff DM’s Revenge posted) a while back when I start my current campaign.
I went in with the assumption that Athas’ sun was a Sol-type star with Athas at some distance beyond the midpoint of the star’s habitable zone. I think what happened was that Rajaat drained enough energy or what have you from the star to push it forward on it’s life cycle close to the Red Giant phase. The star would turn redder, start to swell, and the habitable zone would move outward.
Just my own unverifiable personal gnosis on the subject.

(nijineko prismaticpsion) #5

Yeah, but the blue stage needs to be accounted for.


I think it’s pretty obvious the changes in Athas’ star were meant to evoke the life cycle of a typical main sequence star (at least as it was understood in the late 80s / early 90s).

Of course that’s not going to make any sense if you think too hard about it.

I always justified it as a main sequence star being forced between its various stages unnaturally, and went with the idea that as the star itself changed states and its goldilocks zone changed in orbital size/distance, the effects of the Pristine’s Tower’s leeching included altering the orbit of Athas to maintain a (relatively speaking) optimal orbital distance.

I’ve also considered that Athas is actually a moon orbiting Ral, and Guthay is either a smaller satellite orbiting Atlas, or a sister-moon orbiting Ral as well.

Ultimately, again, rule of cool. Take inspiration from real world phenomena and science, but don’t get caught trying to find exact real-world explanations that will 100% fit.

(Christopher Andrew Simpson) #7

In reference to Dark Sun and Spelljammer, I remember reading a specific section in one of the official Sourcebooks which covered how the Phlogiston allows access to the various AD&D Settings. It goes like this:
1). All Systems are enclosed in an impenetrable Crystal Sphere or Shell, which keeps the Phlogiston out. Spelljamming allows one in and out.
2). The Crystal Sphere is marked [on the inside] with the Stars, etc. of the local World Setting, and contains all of that Setting’s Stars, Planets, Moons, Comets, etc.
3). The Crystal Sphere is usually “Open”. This means that Divine Access [for Divine Magic, etc.] works, and that the Outer and Astral Planes can be accessed. It also means that Spelljamming, and Arcane Spellcasting work normally, as per their standard rules.
4). The Athasian Crystal Sphere, from what I have read, is a Closed Sphere. And it always has been. Thus, no Divine Access, no access to the Phlogiston for Spelljamming, no replenishment of Arcane Energy, and in general, an increasingly post-apocalyptic Setting where the despotism of The Sorceror-Kings reigns supreme, and desperation in life and struggle for survival are the order of the day.
5). Athasian “Divine Classes” such as the Athasian Cleric, or Athasian Druid, are gaining their Spells from the Land, and the Elemental and Natural Guardians thereof, rather than an external Planar source, like standard Clerics; The Templars of the various City-States gain the power directly from their local Sorceror King/Queen instead.
Hope all of this helps as an [unofficial] clarification.

Christopher Simpson.


Throwing out a few ore tidbits: if one looks at the calendar of Athas (in ivory triangle boxed set), it is SUSPICIOUSLY tidy and even. Which kinda screams artificial. Of course it’s almost certainly to have been intended to make the writer’s job easier, but you could also say that the planet’s orbit is itself artificially regular, hence the tidy yearly calendar.

Also re: the crystal sphere, the old Nether boxed set for the Realms included a 12th level spell (i think it was 12th) with the sole purpose and effect of “closing” a crystal sphere. And the only crystal sphere to have EVER been stated as being closed is that of Athas. Draw your own (very obvious) conclusions.

(Christopher Andrew Simpson) #9

I’ve just looked up “Brown Dwarf” on wikipedia, and was redirected to REd Dwarf stars via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luhman_16 and thence to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_classification
In this latter article, there is an extended Treatise concerning all forms of Stellar Classification, not just the traditional OBAFGKM [Mnemonic: “O, Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me”; “Girl”, on account of the fact that, at the time, almost all Astronomers were men]. The article, under the heading of L-Class stars, tells that the largest of these Stars are capable of fusion, but they are very cool, radiating mostly in the Infra-red - their surface temperature is around 1100 degrees Centigrade or so. Such a star would look dull red, possibly crimson or brownish, and the Habitable Zone would be very close to the star, making it [the star] appear large in the Sky.

An alternative set-up might be the “Falcons of Narabedla” / Darkover set-up [cf. the truly brilliant “Darkover” series by the late, great, Marion Zimmer Bradley]. This would allow for a Planet to orbit a really cool [temperature-wise] Red Giant star of some type. The only problem here is that the cooler the Giant Star, the larger it is, and thus the dramatically longer it takes for a planet to orbit it.

It should also be noted as a parallel, that Oerth [the Planet of Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Kara-Tur], has two dissimilar-sized Moons, just like Athas. Is Athas a late [and possibly Alternate Prime] version of Oerth?

Christopher Simpson.


Oerth’s system is explicitly stated to have the sun orbit Oerth. Just tossing that out there. And the Dark Sun logo clearly shows Athas as an itty-bitty in comparison to its star.

Also, Kara-Tur is the far eastern coast of the Forgotten Realms.