Trans-Jovian Moons in Fact and Fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 25, 2013 12:00pm | Post a Comment

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts about extraterrestrial worlds in fact and (mostly) fiction. There've been (or will be) posts about Callisto, Ceres, Europa, Ganymede, Io, Mars, Pluto, Titan, VenusTrans-Neptunian dwarf planets, and Asteroids. The primary reason that there haven't been more is because the more obscure the solar object, the less likely it is to have been a setting for a Science-Fiction work (and thus the less relevance to Amoeba). A secondary reason is that these posts are far less popular than my Los Angeles neighborhood, LA County community, or Orange County community posts -- but aren't moons and planets sort of the neighborhoods of our Solar System? So here I am with a round-up of several moons, the Trans-Jovian ones that appear in computer or video games, movies, TV shows and old time radio.


There are currently 163 known Trans-Jovian moons. If the definition is broadened to include Trans-Neptunian objects, Trojan Moons, and Asteroids, then there are more than 336. Not surprisingly, most of them have not been the subject of any sci-fi fantasies. 


I've long been fascinated by the satellites of the gas giants. Whereas the planets they orbit seem unlikely to be colonized, the moons seem to be much more hospitable and tantalizing. Eight of them are larger than Pluto, which was formerly categorized as a planet. Imagine looking up to a sky dominated by a massive planet. It's almost enough to give me a panic attack. 

Sunset on Titan as (panoramic composite created by Christian Waldvogel)

Today is the 357th anniversary of the discovery of the first Trans-Jovian moon (Titan) by Christiaan Huygens (25 March, 1655).Anyway, since Titan has already been the subject of a blog entry, here are the rest of the Trans-Jovian moons!



Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system, with a radius that's approximately nine times that of Earth's. It is believed to have a rocky core underneath layers of liquid and gas which makes it pretty inhospitable. However, it has 62 known moons. Along with Ganymede (a satellite of Jupiter), Saturn's moon of Titan is larger than Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system, and is the only known satellite with a dense atmosphere and stable bodies of surface liquid.

Saturn's other moons have less often captured the imagination of sci-fi creators (not counting literature, only because Amoeba's more of a music, movies and games store although there are some books!) but here's what I've got:


Enceladus is the sixth largest moon of Saturn. The world is believed to have liquid water under its icy surface that is ejected into space by cryovolcanoes. Enceladus is one of only three outer Solar System bodies where active eruptions have been observed (the other two are Io, with its sulfur volcanoes, and Triton, with its nitrogen geysers. Some of the expelled water ends up in Saturn's rings whilst some falls back to the moon's surface as snow. Snow world!

Enceladus was a setting in the Buck Rogers radio episode, "Killer Kane and Ardala on Saturn's moon." It was the site of a battle in the Terran-Neosapien War in the cartoon Exosquad. On Life After People: The Seriesthe Cassini spacecraft crashes on Enceladus and the bacteria it carries evolve into new life forms. In the Futurama episode "Cold Warriors," Enceladus is revealed to be Saturn's main "dump moon." And finally, on an episode of 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199 (Space Battleship Yamato 2199), the crew of the Yamato briefly stops there and has an adventure.


Hyperion is the largest irregularly-shaped moon of Saturn, in fact, it was the first non-round moon to be discovered (in 1848 by by William Cranch BondGeorge Phillips Bond and William Lassell). Its orbit is fairly eccentric and its appearance is often compared to that of a sponge. It is believed to be composed mostly of water ice.

Level 16 of the Parallax Software game Descent takes place on there.


Mimas moon

is the smallest astronomical body that is known to be rounded in shape because of self-gravitation. Its surface area is close to that of the Earth country known as Spain. Mimas's most distinctive feature is a giant impact crater 130 kilometres across (named Herschel after the moon's discoverer, William Hershel) that gives it the appearance of the Death Star.

Mimas was a recurring location in Red Dwarf and produces the local delicacy, "Mimean Bladderfish." In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The First Duty," Mimas is where Wesley Crusher and other Starfleet cadets transport after participating in the banned Kolvoord Starburst.


Tethys moon

Tethys is mostly made of water ice -- less than 6% of the planet consists of rocky material! It is heavily cratered but its dominant characteristic is the more than 2000 km long (and 100 km wid) Ithaca Chasma. The huge graben is possibly related to the moon's largest impact crater, the 400 km across Odysseus crater.

Tethys is the setting of the bizarre, Alien cash-in Stanley Donen Saturn 3 (directed by Stanley Donen from a screeplay by Martin Amis). On Exosquad, Tethys was at one point the primary base of the Pirate Clans. Level 17 of Descent takes place there too.



Uranus high resolution planet

The less-preferred, not-very-Latin-sounding but common pronunciation of Uranus (as "yer anus") makes it a favorite planet amongst the elementary school set. It's the third largest planet in the solar system and the largest of the two so-called ice giants. Its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its revolution about the Sun. Its moons orbit in the planet's equatorial plane and are thus subject to extreme seasonal cycles, with the poles of some being plunged into continuous darkness for decades followed by equally long periods of sunlight. Like all of the gas giants, it has a set of planetary rings. Uranus has 27 known natural satellites. Its five major moons are Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon.


Miranda is the smallest and innermost of Uranus's five major moons. Its surface is possibly composed primarily of water ice. Its dramatically-scarred surface is dominated by scarps, craters, coronae (which may've formed via extensional processes at the tops of diapirs) and graben formed by extensional faulting.

Level 18 of Descent takes place on Miranda. 


Oberon is the outermost major moon of the planet Uranus and the second largest and second most massive of the Uranian moons. Oberon is composed of approximately equal amounts of ice and rock --probably differentiated into a rocky core and an icy mantle which are possibly separated by a layer of liquid water. Its unnamed, highest peak is believed to be taller than Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Earth's tallest mountains.

In the Russian film, Лунная радуга (Moonlight Rainbow), cosmonauts on Oberon are infected with a disease that gives them supernatural powers. On Doctor Who, the series "Revelation of the Daleks" introduces the Grand Order of Oberon. In the Canadian TV series, Starhunter, the episode "Cell Game" establishes that Oberon is home to a penal colony. Three levels of Descent take place on Oberon. In Reality Pump Studios' game, Earth 2160, some of the action takes place on Oberon.


Titania moon

Titania is the largest of the moons of Uranus and the eighth largest moon in the Solar System. Titania consists of approximately equal amounts of ice and rock, with an icy mantle and rocky core. As on Oberon, a layer of liquid water may be present at the core–mantle boundary. 

In Earth 2160 references are made to a destroyed prison colony on Titania.



Neptune is the eighth and most distant planet from the Sun in the Solar System. Methane in the outermost regions in part account for the planet's striking blue appearance (Uranus has similar levels of methane but it more cyan than azure so there must be other factors behind its brilliant blue). Neptune frequently experiences massive anti-cyclonic storms. Neptune has thirteen known moons.


Triton moon high resolution

Triton is by far the largest (and most interesting) of Neptune's satellites, comprising more than 99.5% of all of the planet's orbiting mass. It's also the only moon massive enough to be spheroidal. In fact, its size, shape and retrograde orbit indicate that's a captured object and was once probably a dwarf planet. In fact, it's the only large moon with retrograde orbit in the Solar System. It's also one of the few geologically active moons, which accounts for its young, smooth complexion. Along with Ganymede, it's the only moon larger than the smallest planet (again, Mercury). 

And finally, Triton is the setting for level 23 of, you guessed it, 


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Io -- as seen on TV, DVD, VHS, games and telescopes

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 17, 2009 11:57am | Post a Comment

Io is the fourth largest moon in the solar system, about the same size as Earth's. But, whereas Earth's moon (like most) is a boring ball of dirt, Io is bat guano insane, with over 400 volcanoes spewing plumes of material from its molten core as high as 500 km into space, creating a thin atmosphere of sulphur which disperses, due to Io's low gravity.


The volcanoes were first noticed by a navigation engineer named Linda Morabito when she was analyzing images sent from Voyager 1. It is also covered with mountains (most tectonic and not volcanic), some higher than any on Earth. It's also highly radioactive. And as pockmarked and hard to look at as it is, it has no known impact craters. Io remains difficult to look at for dermatosiophobes like myself. If you also have this probelm, maybe it will help to compare it to a moldy fruit.


It was first discovered in 1610 by Galileo Bonaiuti de' Galilei, an astronomer curiously referred to, in most cases, by his first name (like Bjork, Sadam, Lawrence, Madonna and Prince) -- a fact which I find fascinating. It's not as if Galileo is an overly common family name. Though named "Io" by Simon Marius in 1614, the moon was usually referred to as Jupiter I until the mid-20th century. Marius claimed to have discovered Io, in fact, a week before Galilei.


The name "Io" comes from one of the priestesses of Hera. Her father was Inachus, a river god who inaguarated the worship of Hera in Argos. As a hot young priestess, Io caught Zeus' eye. Zeus came to her nightly and begged her to meet him in a meadow for a fling. She told her father about having weird dreams and he reluctantly sent her away. An implacable serial cheater, Zeus disguised himself as a cloud so that he could get it on with Io without Hera noticing. He turned her into a cow to avoid Hera's suspicion. It didn't work. Hera was no slouch, used to Zeus going to all kinds of magical lengths to cheat on her, and when she noticed the earth blanketed in a thick fog with Zeus no where to be found in Olympus, she figured it out so she asked for the cow as a gift.

Argos guarding Io

Hera then tied her to a tree and charged 100-eyed Argus Panoptes with guarding her. Zeus sent Hermes to lull Argus to sleep so that he might resume his affair with the girl. Instead, Hera set her free to graze and wander, driven and plauged by a vexatious gadfly. In her travels, she wandered out of Greece and her name was later applied to the Ionian Sea. After she crossed the Bosporous, she encountered Promotheus who -- despite having his liver pecked out repeatedly by an eagle -- comforted her with the knowledge that she'd become human again someday. When she got to Egypt, she gave birth to Zeus' son Epaphus, as well as a daughter, Keroessa. There she married the Egyptian king, Telegonus. Their grandson, Danaos, eventually returned to Greece with his fifty daughters (the world famous Danaids), as recalled in Aeschylus's play The Suppliants. Io's nickname was "the horned virgin."

As a pretty cool moon, Io has not surprisingly shown up in more than one work of television and film. The space western Outland was set there. In V, the baddies blew it up. On Red Dwarf, Judas Rimmer was raised there. It was home to an Earth Alliance colony in Babylon 5 with the Sol system's jumpgate orbiting it. There was a mining colony there in Escape from Jupiter. In that curious genre of dramatized, speculative sci-fi documentaries, the BBC made Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets. When an astronaut lands there to collect samples, he's overcome by exhaustion and, compounded by the risk of radiation exposure, the samples are abandoned.

  Transformers Season 3 

Io also shows up in a few cartoons. In the Transformers episode "Five Faces of Darkness," Blurr and Wheelie were stranded there following an attack by the Deceptacons. In Heroic Age, in an attempt to knock Io out of orbit, a massive space weapon destroys Jupiter in the process -- (one of my biggest phobias). In Exosquad, Io is where the Exofleet is based.

And you gamers can get your Io on in Ultima II, where the player must travel to Io to complete the game. Many game programers revolve around Io's sulfur mines. Pipeline, level 11 of Descent, and a level of  Disruptor are all set in those mines. Final Doom breaks the mold and includes a resarch base. Io is also featured in ZeroZone and Battlezone I.

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Titan in Fact and Fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 3, 2008 11:58pm | Post a Comment


Titan was discovered in 1655 by Dutchman Christiaan Huygens. It orbits Saturn. Huygens named it Luna Saturni. When more moons were discovered, it was re-named Saturn II, then IV, then VI, which stuck as the official title, even though there are at least 19 moons in closer orbit of Saturn. It's also been referred to as "Saturn's ordinary satellite," but Titan is anything but ordinary.


Titan is the only body in the solar system, aside from Earth, with stable liquid bodies at its surface* and a dense atmosphere. Its landscape is relatively smooth, although there are mountains. As on Earth, the air is primarily composed of Nitrogen. Methane and Ethane clouds produce rain, wind and weather that give it seasons. It also has subsurface oceans*.

Embedded video from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology


The name Titan was chosen by John Herschel in 1847. The Titans, according to the Greek Religion and its adherents, were the former rulers of Greece during the Golden Age. The leader, Kronos, feared that his offspring would attempt to overthrow him, just as he had his father. To prevent this, he ate his children, except Zeus, who was saved and ultimately did overthrow the Titans and banish them to Tartarus.

Huygens's landing site on Titan

With such a mysterious, aesthetically Earth-like world hidden by a hazy atmosphere, Titan has attracted its fair share of speculation about its possible nature. Many films, television series and video games have been set there and are available at Amoeba for your own investigations...


Doctor Who - "The Invisible Enemy"

Transformers G1 - "The God Gambit"

Space Patrol (UK) - "The Glowing Eggs of Titan"

Creature (The Titan Find)

The Puppet Masters

Star Trek: The Next Generation
- "Chain of Command"



Star Trek

(season 3 and 4 opening)








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Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 10, 2008 01:23pm | Post a Comment

Ganymede is the largest satellite in our solar system and probably more interesting than the planet Mercury. It orbits the largest planet in the system, Jupiter. Imagine taking a gander into the sky and seeing that red storm swirling above you like the eye of Sauron! Luckily for citizens of Ganymede, you can't get shrooms there, because that would pretty much guarantee a scary time.

Jupiter (left) and Ganymede (right) (case'n you didn't know)

200km below Ganymede's icy surface, a salty subsurface ocean exists*. It is the only moon in the solar system to possess a magnetosphere. Its atmosphere is primarily composed of oxygen in various states.

The handsomest man alive since the handsomest man expired               The handsomest moon

It was named after the Gods' cupbearer in the Greek religion. The position of divine cupbearer had previously been filled by the goddess of youth, Hebe, who was replaced following the abduction and installation of Ganymede at Zeus' insistence. 

Where it all went down- in what's now Turkey

Ganymede was a Trojan prince and the most handsome guy alive in his day. One day he was tending sheep whilst vacationing in Phyrgia. There he caught Zeus' pederastic eye and the god sent a giant eagle to abduct the guy and bring him to Olympus. In Olympia, he was well-liked except, perhaps not surprisingly, by Zeus' wife Hera. His greatest contribution to we mortals was inventing mead, the delicious alcoholic honey brew which made Grendel go cuckoo for cocoa puffs in distant

The abduction of Ganymede             Getting high off of his own supply         "If you want me to play tambourine, just ask"

Plato later theorized that the story of Ganymede was invented. He figured it was created by Cretans to explain their curiously widespread love for young lads among their Minoan elders.

Ganymede wasn't the only name considered when naming the Jovian moon. It beat out "The Jupiter of Jupiter" as well as the possibility of being named after one of the members of the Medici family in an historical instance of corporate sponsorship.

Members of the Medici family. Don't you just want to slap them?

For all of its mystery and wonder, few filmmakers have utilized Ganymede as a setting, whilst video games, television episodes and animes rather more often have. In fact, one of the only films having anything to do with Ganymede is Operation Ganymed, a made-for-tv movie from Germany which aired in the '70s.


In the animes Space Battleship Yamato (Uchū Senkan Yamato) and Geneshaft (jīn shafuto) some of the action takes place on Ganymede. In Cowboy Bebop (Kaubōi Bibappu), Ganymede is fully aquaformed and is the home of 7 million humans (who live in floating colonies) in addition to new lifeforms unique to the world.

Eht's Grrrrane!

On Babylon 5, there is an ice mining operation is situated there. In the Star Trek episode "By Any Other Name," Scotty gets faded on some green drank he's picked up on the moon. "Ganymede" is the first word uttered in the series Red Dwarf.

                                        One Must Fall 2097                                                                       Carnage Heart

                             Target Earth                                                                                 Shadowgrounds

In the PC game One Must Fall: 2097, combatants fight for the right to develop Ganymede. It's also featured in the PC Game FOM, the Sega Genesis game Target Earth the Playstation game Carnage Heart, and the PC game Shadowgrounds.


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Callisto - Jupiter IV in Entertainment

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 27, 2008 10:14pm | Post a Comment

Callisto was discovered by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610. It was named by Simon Marius after a nymph in Greek mythology who was associated with Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. In the Grecian religion, Zeus took the form of Artemis to seduce Callisto because she didn't fancy the fellow. Then he raped her.

Its diameter is approximately 99% that of Mercury's. It orbits Jupiter. The surface is primarily dominated by impact craters which cover it almost to the point of saturation. However, underneath the surface of rocks and ice is a salty subsurface ocean 100km deep*.


Jupiter Moon, the "Jupiter Jazz" episode of Cowboy Bebop and the Sporilla from Terrahawks

Above the surface, a thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide coats the icy world. NASA's Revolutionary Concepts for Human Outer Planet Exploration has named the world as the favorite for a future Jupiter base.


A lot of people don't realize that Amoeba Hollywood sells video games, as well as 78s, audio cassettes, DVDs, VHS, CDs, Books, &c. The Playstation game G-Police offers yet another hypothesis about the nature of Callisto.


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