Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Here are three other interesting side effects that a huge movie like Avatar will have on real life:
1) If a gas giant is discovered around Alpha Centauri A somewhere around the habitable zone (about AU 1.25 away) and later on we find out that it has a moon a few thousand km in diameter, that moon will almost without a doubt be named Pandora.
2) The discovery of any gas giant itself around Alpha Centauri A even before moons are discovered will be of great interest, since the logical next question will be whether this gas giant has any moons or not, and what size and what distance from the planet would be ideal for life. Even if the planet is outside of the habitable zone it's still possible that a moon with a thick atmosphere and/or an ocean could support life, so something even at Jupiter's distance would still spark everyone's imagination.
3) What if a gas giant is discovered in the habitable zone of the other star, Alpha Centauri B? That's not technically the same star featured in Avatar but it is quite close. A moon there perhaps might be given a related name, or the entire system might be endowed with Greek names as an interesting counterpart to the Roman names we use. A big gas giant similar to Jupiter might be named Zeus, or if it had rings and a low density it could be Cronus. Pandora is a minor character in Greek mythology so giving that name to a moon would actually be quite appropriate. As for planets and moons in our solar system that have Greek names, their near equivalents in the Alpha Centauri system could be given Roman names. A planet similar to Ouranos (Uranus) could be called Caelus.