Hyperion, Moon Of Saturn

Hyperion is one of over thirty moons that circle Saturn. But what makes this moon so interesting for the casual astronomer and the serious scientist?

Looking up in the sky at night you may be able to make up various heavenly bodies without the aid of a telescope. But by using one you can start to explore the nighttime sky and find such planets as Saturn and Jupiter along with the small moons that circle these massive planets. One of Saturn's moons is called Hyperion. Let's take a closer look at this distant cousin to our own moon and see what we can find out!

The first thing you'll find upon viewing Saturn is that there is more than one moon. Hyperion is actually the sixteenth moon recorded to be orbiting the ringed planet out of thirty or more moons discovered to date, making it one of the largest families in history. It is also a recent addition to astronomy books, having been discovered in 1848 by two astonomers independently of each other. Two brothers, George and William Bond in the United States recorded their findings at the same time that William Lassell of England announced his discovery.

This strangely shaped moon orbits Saturn over one million kilometers out, keeping its distance as it is the third moon out from the planet's surface. With a diameter of just under three hundred kilometers it's also not one of the biggest moons out there but it's far from the smallest in the family. At the size of a small country or one of the United States' larger states, Hyperion pales in comparision to our own moon but still can hold his own in the large family of objects circling Saturn.

The name Hyperion comes from Greek mythology and is connected with a Titan, one of the many sons of Gaea and Uranus. It is pronounced "hi PEER ee en".

Comparing this moon with our own you can find a variety of differences, the least of which being that Hyperion is compoased mostly of frozen water with traces of rock found throughout. This mixture is found in all of Saturn's moons, making them all basically solid icebergs floating in space. But Hyperion is different from his friends in that a thin layer of material lies atop the surface, making it look as if the moon isn't composed of nothing more than ice. There is speculation that this layer is composed of dirt and soil turn from other moons or heavenly bodies that passed closely by Hyperion and fell onto the surface.

But one of the most interesting things about this distant cousin of our own moon is the orbit or rotation around the parent planet, Saturn. The Voyager spacecraft that surveyed Hyperion found that the rotation of this moon is chaotic and unpredictable, the scientists unable to plot a consistant path in order to extrapolate the future orbit. However, recent evidence has been added into the calculations that has helped determine that Hyperion may follow something of a thirteen-day orbit, give or take a bit on each side.

Discovered only in the last two hundred years, Hyperion is a fascinating moon that will be studied by deep space probes for years to come. With an icy core covered by space dirt, this small moon will have plenty of secrets to share with Earth in the future as we continue to reach outwards from our own moon to discover more about ourselves and our nearest neighbors.

© High Speed Ventures 2011