Astrophysics of Pandora, the moon-world from Avatar

A while back, I wrote a blog post about Pandora, the gas giant moon that is the setting for Avatar, the visual masterpiece by James Cameron.

To celebrate the opening of Avatar 2: the way of water this week, I made a slideshow to give a little more astrophysical context to Pandora. And, like the movies, it’s all about the visuals — just click through the slides, like you’re sliding down a waterfall, with a gas giant hanging in the sky…

Additional Resources


2 thoughts on “Astrophysics of Pandora, the moon-world from Avatar

  1. Neat summary! However, I think there is one small error. If the planet is around the size of Jupiter, and presumably the mass of Jupiter, then a 15-day orbit corresponds to an orbital radius of 1.75 x 10^9 m, or 1,750,000 km. At that distance from Polyphemus, and with a 29 degree orbital tilt to the plane of the orbit of Polyphemus, the configurations shown in the “Seasons” slide (i.e. the solstices) would not create eclipses for Pandora. It would experience the eclipses during some of the year around the equinoxes, but not every day.

    Depending on the mass-radius relationship the Polyphemus follows, it seems like it would have to be well into the Neptunian regime in order for a 15-day orbit with a 29 degree obliquity to always experience eclipses.

    1. Hi Josh — You are right, eclipses shouldn’t happen every time if Pandora’s orbit is aligned with Polyphemus’ equator. They should be seasonal, like you suggest. Thanks for catching that!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s