Wednesday, 18 December 2019


On this day in 1966, three days after the discovery of a Cronian satellite (see previously) dubbed “Janus” by Audouin Dollfus, astronomer Richard Walker recorded a similar observation of what was then considered to be the same small moon, the scientific consensus at the time being that two objects could not share the same orbital pathway without colliding despite the fact that this interpretation meant that Janus was hurtling around Saturn much faster than is the case.
A dozen years later, more precise measurements resolved the observations to that of two distinct but co-orbital bodies, and because of this hindsight, the latter credited sighting was named Epimetheus—the twin of the Titan Prometheus associated with foresight. Whereas we might regard Prometheus as more heroic and selfless for daring to steal fire and the other civilising arts from the gods than his dumb brother, whom for unconscionable reasons was entrusted to hand out gifts from
 Pandora (all three also in that same constellation of satellites), as a consolation prize to make up for the fact that all other traits, strengths had been apportioned to other animals, it was sort of a thankless sacrifice (aside from it being a distinct lack of appreciating the consequences of his actions) Prometheus stood trial as was condemned to an eternity of suffering. Epimetheus, on the other hand, demonstrates that we are part of a larger, virtuous network and that dependency and social contracts are themselves strengths (in as much as is the leftover hope) and wound up marrying Pandora, whose daughter and son-in-law are the only humans to survive the flood when the gods decided ultimately to drown mankind. This inner satellite is also referred to as Saturn XI and its gravity and orbit help to define its hosts rings, shepherding rocky debris and dust in place.