At this point, I'd be willing to bet that virtually everyone reading this saw Avatar, a movie that came out back in 2009. I'm sure that many of you have fallen in love with the plight of the Na'vi against the greedy humans. I remember that, after it came out, there were news reports of many people who desperately wanted to go to Pandora and live in the same beautiful landscape that the Na'vi did. Well, do I have some news for you. You can go to Pandora!
However, it might not be exactly what you expected it to be. Nevertheless, you can indeed visit...assuming you have a few spare years and a spacecraft up your sleeve.
A PLACE UNLIKE ANY OTHER:
But I would like to begin by having a look at the image that goes along with this article. If you glance at the image, it has a representation of Pandora, which is a moon orbiting its host planet, Polyphemus. The planet that Pandora is orbiting looks like Jupiter, although a different colour (obviously). For the sake of ease, I'm going to just assume that, because it looks like Jupiter, it's about the same size and composition, (it even has the Great Red [blue] Spot!).
Thinking about this logically, neither this planet nor its moon can be inside of our solar system (obviously). But if it was actually Jupiter, then the moon would just be a frozen rock, due to its distance from our sun. As it turns out, in the movie, it is orbiting Alpha Centauri A. It is also mentioned in the movie that the gravity is lower on Pandora as well. Through some further research, I found that it is about 20% lower, as the moon is not much smaller than the Earth (this is a BIG moon).
So far, we have learned that Pandora is a moon slightly smaller than the Earth, it orbits a gas giant called Polyphemus which, in turn, orbits Alpha Centauri A. We know that Alpha Centauri is about 4.2 light years away, and that it's about a 7 year trip to there on the humans ships... clearly they're FAR more advanced that we are now. In the beginning, however, I did say that we could go to Pandora with a spacecraft and a few spare years, and I was not lying; it's just *another* Pandora that we can get to, not the one orbiting Alpha Centauri. And unfortunately, the Pandora used in the movie Avatar is far from the reality of the real Pandora--which exists in our solar system right now.
Drum roll please...
I present to you all... PANDORA!
Probably not what you all were expecting to see. In all seriousness, it looks like nothing more than a giant 84 km (52 miles) across pitted potato that orbits around Saturn. Yes peoples, meet the Lord of the Fries!
The reason for the name is quite simple, a good majority of the moons and planets that have been named within our solar system come from ancient mythology from several different cultures. Although we're typically accustomed to the Ancient Roman mythology that was used for all the planets and a good number of the moons (Saturn itself has approximately 60 of them), there is so much stuff to name out there that we've had to delve into other mythologies for more names.
Some of you out there may be sighing and be getting ready to slay me for getting your hopes up about going to the lush green world of Pandora where Na'vi are plentiful... Be assured that, although you may not be able to visit the imaginary moon, you can visit the giant potato in our solar system. The original Pandora! And that's still something to be excited about.