Mental Floss

The Moons of Saturn: Taking Cues From a Wounded Icon

By BY
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As of today, Saturn has fifty-six moons. And at the rate new ones are shyly popping up, one might say that the planet is, um, bringing sexy back. Why so many moons, Saturn? Perhaps the planet is overcompensating for all the hating going on around the weary campfires of astrologers. The current planetary weather features an opposition between Saturn and the Sun, and since the Sun is always the home team, everybody's groaning in anticipation of the next dour event we can blame on the old ball of gas.

But maybe Saturn has something to teach us besides how to assume the position. And anything magnetizing enough to boast so many satellites must know something about relationships.

Let's consider this tangle of moons and try to superimpose some "straight-up" cosmology; we'll list the eight major kinds of satellites and their human counterparts. Maybe it'll make you feel better about all that celestial detritus you've got lurking in your own gravitational field...

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SATURN'S MAJOR PLAYERS:

RING SHEPHERDS: These moons circuit within or just outside the rings. Their chaotic orbits help sharpen and differentiate the rings.

mean hipster
mean hipster /

CO-ORBITALS: Moons obsessed with each other, and with orbits close enough that there'd be a collision if one attempted to pass the other.

annoying couple
annoying couple /

INNER LARGE MOONS: They orbit inside the tenuous and transparent E Ring (icy, dusty, difficult)

girls
girls /

TROJAN MOONS: They orbit at exactly the same distance from Saturn as other moons and occupy the Lagrangian points, but far enough away from other moons that they never collide

heart boy
heart boy /

OUTER LARGE MOONS: Huge moons orbiting beyond the E Ring

msg in bot
msg in bot /

THE IRREGULAR SATELLITES GROUP: These dears rock distant, retrograde, and usually inclined orbits; many have been swiped from other heliocentric orbits; in human form, they're manifested as career masochists you shared a few drinks with at the Kuiper Belt and somehow now they're yours.

THE INUIT IRREGULARS: Homogeneous, light-red in hue

HUMAN COUNTERPART: These people are helpful career-wise but ultimately frustrating, often addicted to taurine and Retin-A.

THE NORSE IRREGULARS: A jolly clan of 18 outer moons

HUMAN COUNTERPART: These ones are more maternal and into genealogy; they'll invite you to witness past-life regressions in their backyards.

THE GALLIC IRREGULARS: Substrata of the Inuits

HUMAN COUNTERPART: These harmless ones are less zealous than the rest of the irregular clan, and you'll often end up dating them out of guilt for how poorly you treated the Inuits

alien
alien /
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