Thursday, May 26, 2005
Facts about real volcanoes versus Star Wars ones
By studying the real volcanoes found on our own planet, the model makers and digital artists working in the Lucasfilm Art Department and Industrial Light & Magic were able to make Mustafar look like a real volcanic planet complete with rivers of molten lava. Now you too can get a better understanding of what it feels like to step foot on Mustafar with these interesting facts about the volcanoes found right here on Earth.
How does a volcano form?Right underneath our feet there's a lot going on. The outer skin of the Earth is called the crust. Way below that (we're talking miles and miles and miles below the soil) is the Earth's mantle which is solid rock. But thanks to really high tempuratures and intense pressure, parts of this rock and various metals stay in a molten, liquid form called magma. When the pressure builds up, this superheated magma bubbles up through the Earth's crust, cracking the ground to make a vent or opening. Think of it as the top layer of a pie crust with hot fruit filling bubbling up through the pie holes. Over time, the lava that seeps out of these openings cools down and builds layer upon layer until it resembles a mountainous shape.
What happens when a volcano erupts?The volcano has pent-up gasses below ground that need to escape through an opening. As the volcano erupts, fiery fragments, hot lava and ash burst out (as you saw briefly during Anakin and Obi-Wan's duel on Mustafar). The thick lava then slowly makes its way down the sides of the volcano, destroying anything in its path.
Do all volcanoes erupt the same way?While some volcanoes explode with a super-burst of ash and lava, other volcanoes release lava so slowly that you could walk -- or lightsaber duel -- around them. Some eruptions can last hours or even days, and produce a towering, extended eruption that dumps a huge amount of "tephra" (cooled volcanic pieces and ash) that cover the surrounding area.
What's good about volcanoes?The mineral and nutrient-rich volcanic materials found in cooled lava help the soil around it become fertile for a variety of trees and other plants to grow. While some volcanoes are used to produce energy, non-active volcanos can be mined for such materials as copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold. In Revenge of the Sith, Mustafar is known as a mining planet probably for those very reasons. The Mustafarians seen riding those platforms are harvesting the minerals directly from the lava.
Can you live near them?Even though many countries that have volcanoes seem like the last place you'd want to live, many people can coexist with them without worry. In fact, the U.S. has a collection of volcanoes in the beautiful state of Hawaii, which is home to one of the largest volcanoes in the world at 13,000 feet above sea level -- Mauna Loa.