Science of Tatooine: Water

Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

In the Star Wars Universe, Tatooine is a desert planet with two suns.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary(1) a desert is

1a :  arid land with usually sparse vegetation; especially :  such land having a very warm climate and receiving less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of sporadic rainfall annually

b :  an area of water apparently devoid of life

Clearly, definition b is not in effect for Tatooine, as there is megafauna. Merriam-Webster Dictionary(2) defines megafauna as:

1:  animals (as bears, bison, or mammoths) of particularly large size

2:  fauna consisting of individuals large enough to be visible to the naked eye

On Tatooine, there are krayt dragon, rancor, sarlaccs, dewbacks, banthas, among other animals. Our understanding of life requires water. On a planet with less than 10 inches of sporadic rainfall annually, how do such big animals get their water?

We have to move outside of Universe canon to consider water on Tatooine. (Canon, as of the summer of 2014, has been declared to only include the six movies to date and the Clone Wars television series.) So, there is little to go on. Some of the books, outside of canon, discussed Tatooine as a planet much like earth with large oceans that was altered by an alien race. Whether a planet with suns such as Tatooine could have the described oceans, is another article. However, it does help with how the animal-life could have evolved. Another question arises: in such a change of climate, how did these animals adapt? (Peruse the carnival for an answer to this question!)

One possible source of water includes the very dry atmosphere. Water vapor occurs in the atmosphere, even those above deserts. Relative humidity varies from region to region. On a planet entirely desert, this could be true as well. Not all deserts have the same atmospheric humidity.

Moisture Vaporator. Source: Star Wars Wiki.

Luke Skywalker is introduced on the moisture farm of his aunt and uncle. These moisture farms use a technology called moisture vaporators. Moisture vaporators condense water out of the atmosphere using cooling rods. This works much like a cold beverage getting condensation on the outside of it on a hot day. Water vapor from the atmosphere comes into contact with a cooler surface and condenses. In a fairly humid region, this will happen at temperatures near current temperatures. However, in the desert, the temperature at which the water will condense is lower. Once condensed, the water flows down the rod into a water storage tank. Clearly having working vaporators is a matter of survival for humanoids on Tatooine. Indeed, a moisture farm is necessary to provide water to bigger cities. No wonder Owen Lars requires a droid with translation skills.

“What I really need is a droid that understands the binary language of moisture vaporators.”

“Vaporators? Sir, my first job was programming binary loadlifters—very similar to your vaporators in most respects.”

from A New Hope

Purchase of the droids. Image source.

Another possible source of water on this desert planet is aquifers. Aquifers are a water-bearing stratum of permeable rock, sand, or gravel(3). Aquifers are often linked to rivers. With the evident geology of Tatooine in the various movies, one can guess that at one point there were rivers flowing on Tatooine. In fact, the Sahara Desert on Earth, has seasonal and intermittent rivers, lending credibility to the possibility of the same on Tatooine. Some of the cities on Tatooine could also get water piped in from existing aquifers in the region.

“Aquifer en” by Hans Hillewaert – en:Image:Schematic aquifer xsection usgs cir1186.png. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Obviously, the non-humanoid animals are not using these moisture farms to gather water out of the atmosphere, nor are they digging their way down to the potential aquifers. So how are they getting their water? What other sources could they get for water?

Animals that have evolved to survive and thrive in desert climates may not need to consume water the way we think. Many desert animals retain water using methods such as burrowing into moist soil, and some do not excrete it the way mammals do. Often, due to water retention and evolution to need less water, they are able to get all the water they need through the vegetation (or animals) they eat. As we can see from the aquifer diagram, it is these underground sources of water that lead to the small oasis of vegetation. In addition, groundwater will come to the surface to create little pools, which animals can gather at to consume water.

Sources of water on this desert planet may be sparse but they exist.

Be sure to visit all the posts in this Science Carnival!

 

Citations/References

1. “Desert.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed July 20, 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desert.

2. “Megafauna.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/megafauna>.

3. “Aquifer.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 July 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aquifer>.

4. Desert USA http://www.desertusa.com/survive.html

Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

Geeks Giving Back, February: Animal Rescue

kitten

Photo by Ana “Vee” Visneski

How often have you been playing your favorite game, only to have your cat jump up and bat at the monitor, or “help you out” by warming your hands, i.e., sit on your hands on the keyboard? Our geeky staff love their animals and love giving back to the animal community. In this first installment of Geeks Giving Back, we focus on volunteering with animals. There are a variety of ways to volunteer with animals, but today we focus on volunteering with rescue.

What is animal rescue? An animal rescue organization saves animals of an established type from a variety of sources and places them, through adoption, with new owners. Pet rescues are easy to find. Google your favorite breed of dog or animal with the word “rescue” and your locale to find a rescue near you.

Our Manager of Fundraising, LB Chambers, volunteers at Greyhound Pets, Inc. in Woodinville, WA—a non profit organization that finds homes for retired racing greyhounds (or those deemed unsuitable for racing). Our Manager of Social Media, Ana “Vee” Visneski, volunteers at the Seattle Animal Shelter.

Everyone has their own reasons for choosing to volunteer for such an organization. For Vee, her own adopted dogs contributed to her motivation. She says, “I have two adopted dogs who are such a joy in my life, and I firmly believe that every animal deserves a loving home. Rescuing your pet instead of buying should be something everyone really considers. The Seattle Animal Shelter is a great asset to this cause.”

LB wanted to adopt after meeting greyhounds and volunteers from Greyhound Pets, Inc. at a local pet store. Rather than jump full tilt into the relationship, she decided to volunteer for the organization to get to know the breed a little better. A dedication to adopting need not be your motivation. Perhaps you just like to play with cute puppies, kitties, or your animal of choice.

Within these organizations, there are many types of volunteer positions to fit your motivation. For example, some of the volunteer positions listed for the above organizations are booth volunteer, foster home, transporter of animals, in-shelter volunteer; individual, youth, or group volunteering. These range from activities that require an hour of your time to constant care, from irregular timing to highly specific scheduling.

“If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering at Greyhound Pets, Inc. they should visit the website (at www.greyhoundpetsinc.org) and then contact Moira Corrigan who is the President (her contact information is available on the website). Before you become a full volunteer you must attend a training session led by an experienced or head volunteer, but Greyhound Pets, Inc. is very accommodating in finding times that work for their volunteers. This is a great way for someone who wants to volunteer regularly, but not on a strict time schedule. Volunteers are needed twice a day to take out the dogs and there is the option to take a weekly spot, but volunteers can also be on a contact list in case more volunteers are needed to fill open spots (usually there are spots open every couple days),” LB responded when asked what someone who wanted to volunteer with Greyhound Pets, Inc. specifically might expect.

“You can also become a foster home for greyhounds which is equally important. A lot of the time a greyhound has spent his or her entire life in a small cage with only moments of speed on a racetrack; they have no knowledge of mirrors, cars, televisions, other animals, even stairs (especially stairs!). It’s a lot of work to foster a greyhound and work him or her through discovering the world outside a cage, but very rewarding and a lot of fun.” Different organizations have different needs, so be sure to check with your favorite rescue as to what their volunteer needs are and how to go about volunteering with them.

Vee warns that you may want to take every single animal you work with home. “My first dog was a rescue, and she is the best dog ever. (I might be biased.) I began working with the Louisiana SPCA after being a responder during Hurricane Katrina because I felt it was a way to keep helping the region even in my off time. There was so much healing to be done in that region, and I knew how much my dog had always been a big part of my own life. I hoped that reuniting people with their pets, or finding families new pets to love, could help some of that healing happen.” Vee kindly provided the adorable photos shown on this blog from her work with the LSPCA, and are used with her permission.

If you have an interest in volunteering with a pet rescue, the animals give their unconditional love in return, and you may find other rewards. We’d love to hear about your experience.

LSPCApuppy

Photo by Ana “Vee” Visneski

Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

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