Avatar fans are excited to return to the lush expanse of Pandora for The Way of Water, and ahead of its December release, we lay out everything you need to know about the Alpha Centauri moon.
The fandom will also be able to explore the flora and fauna of Pandora for themselves when Ubisoft’s first-person video game, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, releases within the next two years.
Directed by Cameron with a screenplay by Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, Avatar: The Way of Water serves as the long-anticipated sequel to the 2009 feature, based on a story the writers created with Josh Friedman and Shame Salerno.
Who is Pandora Named After?
Pandora, also known as the Na’vi name ‘Eywa’eveng’, is named after the first human woman created by Hephaestus under the will of Zeus, according to Greek mythology.
The woman was given a pithos – a Greek name for a large container – and was told never to open it, but she ended up disobeying those orders and opened it anyway, releasing many evils into the world. This legend would later become known as Pandora’s Box.
After realizing what she had done, the woman quickly closed the container and managed to stop one evil from getting out into the world: Hopelessness. Hope has now become a staple in the constant fight against evil.
The habitable extrasolar moon is located within the Alpha Centauri System and is the fifth moon of the giant gas planet Polyphemus.
Alpha Centauri is the brightest star in the constellation of Centaurus and a trinary star system made up of three stars orbiting around one another: Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and a red dwarf, Alpha Centauri C, or Proxima Centauri. Alpha Centauri B is known for providing Pandora with its sun.
As a result of its light source, Pandora does not experience dark nights for half of the Polyphemian year. The other half of the year, the nights are well-lit by Polyphemus’ disk and the reflected light from other moons.
Is Pandora a Real Moon?
No, Avatar canon states that Pandora was not discovered until sometime between 2050 and 2077 by space telescopes, meaning the moon does not exist in our history.
The closest astronomy phenomenon to exist in our timeline is one of Saturn’s smallest moons, which is also called Pandora.
The Alpha Centauri System, however, is a star system that exists in our astronomy, captured just above the horizon of Saturn.
Pandora’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, xenon, methane, and hydrogen sulfide, existing 20% denser than Earth’s atmosphere – thanks to the Xenon.
The high count of carbon dioxide, however, is poisonous to humans, rendering them unconscious in 20 seconds and dead in four minutes if exposed without breathing masks. Hydrogen sulfide is equally as poisonous to our race.
Furthermore, Pandora has an increased air resistance, resulting in lower terminal velocity which aids flying animals, decreases the speed of free falling, and causes plants to grow with a fortified strength to protect against the higher wind force.
In Stephen Baxter’s book, The Science of Avatar, the writer acknowledges the following about the moon’s gravity:
“Pandora’s gravity is about eighty percent of Earth’s. Its diameter is three-quarters of Earth’s, and its mass about half.”
Pandora harbors different terrain across its expanse, including deserts, tundras, mountainous regions, and tropical reefs.
The following clans originate from their corresponding terrain:
- Hulanta clan – From the Wetlands.
- Metkayina clan – From the reefs of the Pandoran ocean.
- Omaticaya clan – Dwelling in the jungle near Hometree.
- Rey’tanu clan – From the arid highlands.
- Tayrangi clan – From the eastern sea region.
Each region of Pandora has a unique ecosystem to the other and floating land masses are found throughout the moon – not just in the jungle region. Volcanoes are also common on the moon, demonstrating its similarities to Earth’s terrain and geological system.
Flora and Fauna
One of the more attractive qualities of Pandora is the amount of colorful flora that spawns, particularly around the jungle region.
As shown in the first Avatar movie, the range of plants that grow within the jungle region are all part of the moon’s giant neural network and forests produce bioluminescent flora that glows various shades of blue, green, violet, and indigo.
The most precious, living organism on Pandora, however, is the Tree of Souls, or the Na’vi name: Vitraya Ramunong. It’s a giant willow tree that the Na’vi believe is the closest connection they have to Eywa – the guiding force of life and deity of the moon.
The fauna of Pandora includes a number of unique creatures, including grey, hexapodal direhorses, mountain banshees that Na’vi ride and hunt from, with the great leonopteryx being the most deadly.
More exotic animals include the vicious viperwolves, the large herbivore hammerhead titanothere, and the deadly, carnivorous thanators.
In addition to the roster of living organisms dwelling on Pandora, the moon also contains the non-living and extremely rare mineral Unobtanium.
The phenomenon’s origin is thought to have been rooted in a planet crash into the still-molten moon of Pandora, billions of years ago when Alpha Centauri was condensing. After the crash, the moon’s nickel-iron core was thrown off and high temperatures interacted with Polyphemus’ magnetic field which spawned a suitable environment for Unobtanium to grow.
The mineral is worth $20 million per unrefined kilogram and is somewhat of a scientific feat to professionals, which is why many humans want their hands on the stuff.
Unobtanium is also baffling because of its powerful magnetic field and toxicity to humans, which is why our race has to wear exopacks during mining operations.
Humans also mine the mineral for energy conduction and this is the sole reason why humans and Na’vi are often at odds with each other.
By Jo Craig – [email protected]
Avatar: The Way of Water will release in theaters on December 16, 2022.