Nordic Names Blog - Saturn's Norse Moons

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Moon NN.jpg


29 March 2020

The planet Saturn has 82 moons that are not embedded in its rings. Only 13 of them have diameters greater than 50 kilometers, though.

Some of its moons have got Norse names. They are called "the Norse group" and belong to the irregular moons of Saturn. Irregular moons are small satellites with large-radii, inclined, and frequently retrograde orbits. They have probably been acquired by Saturn through a capture process and they are very small.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) reserves names taken from Norse mythology (mostly giants) for these moons. There is one exception: Phoebe, the largest one (ca 213 km in diameter), was discovered long before the others and its name was taken from Greek mythology instead. After Phoebe, Ymir is the largest one with an estimated diameter of only 18 km.


List of Moons of the "Norse Group"

For the meanings of the names, follow the name links!

  • Hati - Hati is the name of a mythical wolf. He is the son of Hróðvitnir and the father of Hrímgarðr. He runs in front of the sun and pursues the moon Máni which it will eventually devour.
  • Hyrrokkin - Hyrrokkin is the name of a giantess. She was called upon by the gods when they were unsuccessful in launching Baldr's funeral ship. She came riding on a wolf and had poisonous snakes as harness. Hyrrokkin went to the prow of the ship and pushed it away at the first attempt so that sparks flew up from the rollers and all the lands quaked. Þórr became angry and took hold of his hammer, and he would have smashed in her skull, had not all the other gods begged him to have mercy on her.
  • Phoebe - Phoebe is a Titaness in the Greek mythology associated with the moon
  • Skathi - Skaði is the name of a goddess of earth, winter and skiing. She is a mountain giantess, the daughter of Þjazi. When the gods had killed her father, Skaði went to Ásgarðr to take revenge but then she agreed to marry Njǫrðr instead and they lived in Manheimr. The couple separated later because Njǫrðr wanted to live at the sea while Skaði loved the mountains. Later, she married Óðinn.
  • Skoll - Skǫll is the name of the wolf that pursues the sun in its course across the sky. He will finally devour it.
  • Surtur - Surtr is the name of a fire giant. He is the enemy of the gods at Ragnarǫk where he and Freyr, who has to fight without his sword, kill each other. He has a flaming sword; at the end he will come and wage war and will conquer all the gods and will destroy the whole world by fire. Surtr rides in the vanguard and before him and behind him there will be burning fire; his sword is splendid and shines brighter than the sun.
  • Ymir - Ymir is the name of a proto-giant. He originated in Ginnungagap from the melting ice drops of the rivers Élivágar and grew to gigantic proportions, fed by the proto-cow Auðumla. Ymir is the progenitor of all giants. The birth of his descendants occurs by autogamy: When Ymir was asleep, he sweated and beneath his left armpit a man and a woman grew, and one of his legs begat a son with the other leg. He is the father of Þruðgelmir and the grandfather of Bergelmir. After the birth of the first gods Óðinn, Vili and Vé, Ymir is killed by the same and all the giants drown in his blood, except for Bergelmir (and his wife?). The gods brought Ymir's body to the middle of Ginnungagap and began to create the world out of him: His blood became the sea and all the waters, his flesh the earth, his bones the mountains, his teeth and splinters of bone the rocks, his skull the sky, his hair the trees, his brain the clouds and from his brows Miðgarðr.


[1] [2]

References

  1. Rudolf Simek: Dictionary of Northern Mythology (1993)
  2. Lars Magnar Enoksen: Norrøne guder og myter (2008)