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Loki in the Cosmos

Since the dawn of human civilization, humans have looked to the stars in relationship to the Gods and Goddesses of their spiritual beliefs. We can see this through archeological, written and anthropological evidence and even see it currently throughout the world. Last month I published a post regarding the Astronomy of the Germanic and Scandinavian skies. Today I want to focus on one specific Loki and his place in the cosmos regarding a Moon of Jupiter and a very well know star. The oceans of this world are my most passionate fascination but the realm of the Universe is a subject I also like learning about and I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Lokabrenna – Star of Loki (Sirius)

In some Scandinavian countries, Sirius is sometimes referred to as Lokabrenna (Loki’s Brand or Loki’s Torch.)

Sirius is so bright that it can even be observed with the naked eye, provided that the sky is clear, the observer is at a high altitude, or the Sun is at the horizon in the eastern sky, especially as Sirius appears during the late summer months in the Northern Hemisphere.

The appearance of Sirius in the sky was seen as of immense importance in ancient times; several other cultures worshiped and offered sacrifices as the rise of Sirius signaled good fortune. (Coins retrieved from 3rd century BCE were embossed with pictures of dogs or stars emitting rays, which may signify the importance of Sirius.)

Another common name for Sirius is the ‘Dog Star’ – which coincides with arrival of the oppressive heat – hence the reason why late summer (July 3rd-August 11th) is commonly referred to as the ‘dog days.’

Being the brightest star in the sky, Lokabrenna may have also been used as a navigational tool by sailors, such as the Vikings. Interestingly enough, Arab traveler Ibn Fadlan -who wrote the Risala around 921 A.D., regarding his impressions of the Varangians (Vikings) on the Volga trade route – dedicated the largest portion of his account to describing (and opining upon) the daily practices and beliefs of these traders.   Thus, Fadlan may have been the first to include reference to Sirius’ importance to the Vikings as a navigational guide in the eastern skies, among other things. SOURCE

Most people perceive it as one single star. However, in reality Sirius is a binary stellar system consisting of two space objects – Sirius A and Sirius B.

Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, α Canis Majoris (Alpha Canis Majoris), or Canicula, is the brightest star in the night sky. It lies at a distance of 8.60 light years (2.64 parsecs) from Earth, in the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. Sirius is not the brightest star because it is more luminous than other visible stars, but because it is located so close to the solar system. It is the fifth closest star system to Earth and contains two of the eight nearest stars to Earth.

Sirius is slowly moving closer to Earth and will gradually increase in brightness over the next 60,000 years, before it starts to recede. It will, however, remain the brightest star seen from Earth for the next 210,000 years.

Sirius has an apparent magnitude of -1.46, which makes it almost twice as bright as Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky, located in Carina constellation. Continue reading HERE.

A Volcano called Loki

Loki Patera volcano in color from Voyager 1

A huge area of Io’s volcanic plains is shown in this Voyager 1 image mosaic. Numerous volcanic calderas and lava flows are visible here. Loki Patera, an active lava lake, is the large shield-shaped black feature. Heat emitted from Loki can be seen through telescopes all the way from Earth. These telescopic observations tell us that Loki has been active continuously (or at least every time astronomers have looked) since the Voyager 1 flyby in March 1979. The composition of Io’s volcanic plains and lava flows has not been determined, but they could consist dominantly of sulfur with surface frosts of sulfur dioxide or of silicates (such as basalts) encrusted with sulfur and sulfur dioxide condensates. The bright whitish patches probably consist of freshly deposited SO2 frost. The black spots, including Loki, are probably hot sulfur lava, which may remain molten by intrusions of molten silicate magma, coming up from deeper within Io. The ultimate source of heat that keeps Io active is tidal frictional heating due to the continual flexure of Io by the gravity of Jupiter and Europa, another of Jupiter’s satellites. SOURCE

The largest volcano in the solar system, located on Jupiter’s moon Io, is called Loki, named after Loki of Norse Mythology. There are several other volcanoes on the moon of Io, and all of them are named after mythical figures, most of whom are associated with fire.

Loki generates more lava and heat than all volcanoes on Earth combined, is 202km in diameter, and under the crust, is part of a molten core as large as half of the Earth’s moon.

Information gathered from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s website and NASA’s Galileo mission website.

Loki can be found on Jupiter’s moon Io. Named for the Norse God of Mischief (or comic book villain if you prefer), this volcano is considered to be the hottest and most powerful in the Solar System. Loki is officially called Loki Patera which means “Loki Basin”. Loki is not a tall volcano, it has no cone. It is the opposite, a large depression in Io’s surface that is filled with lava. Loki alone puts out more heat than all of Earth’s volcanoes combined!

Volcanism was discovered on Io by Voyager back in the 1970s. Up until this point people thought Earth was the only place with such active geology. Initially it was surprising to discover this much activity on such a tiny world. Scientists thought that since larger bodies (such as the other rocky planets, and larger moons) appeared to have thoroughly cooled and stopped exhibiting signs of active volcanism, tiny bodies such as Io wouldn’t exhibit it either. Voyager snapped photos of Io’s surface, showing large volcanic scars as well as plumes of ash reaching into the skies. Io had even more volcanic activity than Earth! SOURCE

Further Resources:

The Bizarre Characteristics of Io | Our Solar System’s Moons

Once upon a time… Lokabrenna

Lokabrenna (from temple of the Flea)

Some Thoughts on the Scenery of Hárbarðsljóð

Viking Age Star and Constellation Names

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