Emily LakdawallaSep 20, 2007

New names for some irregular Saturnian moons

A couple of months ago I subscribed to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, in order that I wouldn't again miss another outer planet satellite naming. It's been a couple of months of bulletins about comets, asteroids, newly discovered supernovas (BOOOOO-ring! --just kidding), until finally, tonight, I received one with new names for some satellites of Saturn. Drum roll please

Four new names: Anthe, Jarnsaxa, Greip, and Tarqeq.Anthe is the name for S/2007 S4, which was discovered by Cassini near Methone and Pallene (and was apparently referred to, internally, as "Frank;" I wonder how long it will take the imaging team to make the linguistic switch). In mythology, Anthe was one of the seven Alkyonides, the daughters of Alkyoneus (and if you want more about him, I'll have to ask you to look it up for yourself). Anthe's sisters include Alkippe, Asteria, Drimo, Methone, Pallene, and Phthonia. So that means that Cassini can find four more moons between Mimas and Enceladus and we won't be in trouble for new names (Methone and Pallene having already been taken).

The other three newly named are outer, irregular satellites, even farther from Saturn than Iapetus and hence, in all probability, doomed never to be visited by Cassini; they are only seen as faint motes of light from Earth-based telescopes.

Jarnsaxa and Griep replace the provisional designations S/2006 S6 and S/2006 S4. Jarnsaxa was a giantess of Norse mythology, mistress to Thor, by whom she begat Modi and Magni. Griep was a daughter of the evil giant Geirrod; she had a sister, Gjalp, whose name will no doubt eventually adorn one of the as-yet-unnamed moons. I think it's ironic that such tiny moons are all getting named after Titans and Giants. Jarnsaxa and Griep join Mundilfari, Suttungr, Hati, Thrymr, Aegir, Fenrir, Surtur, Loge, Ymir, and Fornjot, all in retrograde, nearly polar orbits about Saturn.

Finally, there's Tarqeq, the new name for S/2007 S1. Tarqeq is the Inuit Moon spirit, which seems like an awfully big name to give to such a tiny particle in Saturn orbit. Tarqeq joins Kiviuq, Ijiraq, Paaliaq, and Siarnaq, all in prograde orbits with inclinations of around 46 degrees.

They are fun names to pronounce. I can imagine myself as a kid, opening a book, contemplating the names of Saturn's 60-plus satellites; wondering how it can have so many at the same time as I wonder where all those names come from.

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