View Full Version : Bad Astronomy in Avatar: The Last Airbender

2008-Jul-25, 07:48 PM
So my son and I both enjoy Avatar: The Last Airbender, and last week was the series finale--the head-to-head battle between Aang and the Fire Lord.

The series built up to the time of long-prophesied Sozin's Comet, when the Fire Lord's fire-bending ability (and all firebenders, really) would be at its peak, thus allowing him to carry on his assault on the Earth Kingdom and thus rule the world.

First off, it's not clear why a comet would convey special power to just the Fire Benders, given that the comet is likely to be made of Ice and Rock. Why aren't the Water Benders and Earth Benders equally strengthened?

But the Bad Astronomy was Sozin's Comet itself, which appeared in the sky only for a single day--thus making the timing of the attack and Aang's counter-attack crucial. The comet first appeared as a blue-white ball with a tail, but as it entered the atmosphere it heated up to the color of reddish-orange. That's why it's a Fire Bender's special token, I suppose, but since it's useless without the atmosphere, then it should also give strength to the Air Benders, as well.

After the climactic battle, the Fire Lord is vanquished, and the comet skims across the sky to dwindle to a point and vanish just before sundown.

My son and I agreed that Sozin's Extremely Robust Meteor would be a better description.

2008-Jul-30, 11:10 AM
Very true, although I'm loathe to be hard on them, considering this is a world where the ocean and the moon are fish. ;)

One thing I did notice that was astronomically correct was that, in some of the initial shots of the comet's arrival, the comet's tail seemed to move in a a correct way (instead of treating it like the jet trail that most imagine it to be).

2008-Jul-30, 12:41 PM
I'm glad to know I wasn't the only person who was bugged by this.

2008-Jul-30, 02:47 PM
During Season Two (I believe), there was another plot point about a solar eclipse that would essentially reduce fire bending skills down to zero. Aang and Saka found out the time of the eclipse at an underground library using a complicated device that moved icons of the moon and sun around, and so by what would have to be a long process of trial and error, they learned when the moon and the sun would be in the same point of the sky.

On the day of the eclipse, the first invasion of the Fire Kingdom was assembled, and when the eclipse occurred the heroes confronted Azula and the Fire Lord who were powerless. I've never experienced an eclipse, but they only last a few minutes, right? The one in the episode seemed to go on and on, although to be fair, they showed various scenes back to back which could have been occurring simultaneously, so it was hard for the audience to judge exactly how long the eclipse lasted.

2008-Jul-30, 09:30 PM
I can't remember exactly how long the eclipse was, but I think it was somewhere around 5-10 minutes, which is pretty long for real-world eclipses, but they did mention in various points of dialog just how short the eclipse was.

Tobin Dax
2008-Jul-31, 06:12 PM
(Not meaning this as a hijack: ) Heroes did eclipses worse, IMO, since they had the same eclipse in New York City and in Japan (Tokyo?) in the series premiere. That's a bit difficult to pull off.

2008-Jul-31, 08:34 PM
I'm not even going to talk about the one in Ben 10, that's how bad it was.