Ijiraq (S/2000 S 6)

back to Outer Saturnian Moons

Ijiraq is ∼13 kilometers in size and thus one of the larger Irregular moon of Saturn. It has been discovered in 2000 joint with eleven other outer moons. Ijiraq’s mean distance to Saturn is ∼11½ million kilometers, with one revolution around the planet on a prograde orbit requiring 1 year, 2 months and 3 weeks. Joint with Kiviuq, S/2005 S 4, S/2019 S 1, and S/2020 S 1 which share very similar orbital elements, its distance to Saturn is the lowest and its orbit period the shortest of all Irregulars. Ijiraq is a member of the Inuit family.

From our Cassini measurements, the rotation period was determined to 13 h and 2 min ± 8½ min. The Ijiraq lightcurves are all remarkably shallow, indicative of a quite circular equatorial cross-section of this moon.

Table of contents

(1) Astronomical and physical properties
(9) References for Ijiraq

Fig. (left): Short animation of Cassini images of Ijiraq while moving through constellation Ophiuchus on 21 Jan 2016 (19 frames; time span: 3:29 h; exposure times: 46 sec; range: 6.3 million km; Cassini orbit: rev 230). In the first image, the object is marked by a black cross. The background stars move through the field of view because the camera of the fast moving Cassini spacecraft was tracking Ijiraq. Flickering bright spots stem from cosmic-ray hits on the camera’s CCD detector, fixed bright or dark pixels are incorrectly calibrated hot or cold pixels on the CCD, respectively. The space background, in reality pitch black, is displayed in dark gray because this makes visibility of the object easier. Image IDs: N1832070635 to N1832083123.

Fig. (right): Lightcurves of Ijiraq from Cassini imaging data obtained on 29/30 Jun 2013 (upper curve; 47° observation phase angle; Cassini orbit rev 193) and 26/28 Jul 2014 (bottom; 95° phase; rev 206). The orange diamond signs indicate the very first measurement of an observation. Adapted from Denk and Mottola (2019).

This page is intended to compile (much of) our knowledge of Ijiraq in compact form. Its main focus will lie on the documentation of my Cassini-ISS work (observation planning and data analysis), but will also provide general information obtained from other work, like discovery circumstances and orbital and physical parameters. It will not include the raw data (images or spectra) taken by the Cassini spacecraft, these are available at NASA’s Planetary Data System (PDS). For further reading on Ijiraq and on Irregular moons of Saturn in general, see the reference list at my outer-Saturnian moons page.

This website is still in the early stages of development. As soon as papers will be reviewed or other information will be processed appropriately, more content will be added. I will remove this note when the page will be close to completion.

Last update: 19 May 2023 — page content is best displayed on a screen at least 1024 pixels wide

(1) Astronomical and physical properties

Moon name Saturn range Orbit period Orbit direction Size Rotation period Discovery year
 million km

Basic information about Ijiraq is offered in tabular form:
(1A) Designations and discovery circumstances
(1B) Orbit parameters
(1C) Physical parameters (body properties)
← Tables (1A) to (1C) in ASCII format

Most fundamental values are highlighted in red. The notes offer explanations, calculations, accuracies, references, etc. The data were obtained from spacecraft as well as from ground-based observations.

(1A) Designations and discovery circumstances
Moon name(1) Ijiraq IAU number(3) Saturn XXII First observation date(7) 23 Sep 2000
Moon abbrev. (TD)(2) Iji Provisional desig.(4) S/2000 S 6 Announcement date(7) 18 Nov 2000
SPICE ID(5) 622 IAU circ. announcement(7) no. 7521
Also-used label(6) S22 Discoverers(8) Kavelaars, Gladman, et al.

Notes for Table 1A:

(1) Ijiraq’s name was announced on 08 Aug 2003 in IAU circ. 8177. It is named after the Ijirait, a sort of shape shifters in Inuit mythology who kidnap and hide children.

(2) I use this 3-letter abbreviation in the diagrams of my publications simply for practicability reasons. These have no offcial character.

(3) Moon numbers are assigned by the International Astronomical Union (IAU)’s Committee for Planetary System Nomenclature. For satellites, roman numeral designations are used.

(4) Designation given to the object in the first announcement; the guidelines are explained here.

(5) SPICE is a commonly-used information system of NASA’s Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility (NAIF). It assists engineers in modeling, planning, and executing planetary-exploration missions, and supports observation interpretation for scientists. Each planet and moon obtained a unique SPICE number.

(6) ‘S’ for ‘Saturnian moon’ plus the roman numeral designation in arabic numbers are often-used labels for satellites. Not sure how official that is.

(7) The date of the photography wherein the object was spotted for the first time is given in the IAU circular released on the announcement date.

(8) The discoverer team included: Brett GladmanJJ Kavelaars, Jean-Marc Petit, Hans Scholl, Matthew Holman, Brian Marsden, Phil Nicholson, Joe Burns.

(1B) Orbit parameters
Orbit direction(1) prograde Group member(2) Inuit Dynamical family(3) Kiviuq/Ijiraq
Periapsis range(4) 8.31 ⋅ 106 km Semi-major axis(5) 11.408 ⋅ 106 km Apoapsis range(6) 14.51 ⋅ 106 km
Semi-major axis(7) 189 R Semi-major axis(8) 0.076 au Semi-major axis(9) 0.174 RHill
Orbit eccentricity(10) 0.272 Orbit inclination(11) 47.5° Inclination supplemental angle(12) 47.5°
Orbital period(13) 450.78 d Orbital period(14) 1 y 2 m 3 w Mean orbit velocity(15) 1.82 km/s

Notes for Table 1B:

(1) Prograde (counterclockwise as seen from north) or retrograde (clockwise as seen from north)

(2) Norse, Inuit, or Gallic

(3) Classification based on the a,e,i space in Fig. 1 and Table 2 in Denk et al. (2018)

(4) $r_{Peri}=a\cdot(1-e)$

(5) Orbit semi-major axis a, from JPL’s Solar System Dynamics Planetary Satellite Mean Elements website

(6) $r_{Apo}=a\cdot(1+e)$

(7) Saturn radius R = 60330 km (100 mbar level)

(8) Astronomical Unit 1 au = 149 597 870.7 km

(9) Saturn’s Hill sphere radius $R_{Hill}=\sqrt[3]{m_♄/3m_☉}\cdot r_{♄↔☉}$= ∼65 ⋅ 106 km = ∼1085 R♄ = ∼3° as seen from Earth at opposition (with mass of Saturn m = 5.6836 ⋅ 1026 kg and perihel range Saturn↔Sun r♄↔ = 1.353 ⋅ 109 km)

(10) Orbit eccentricity e, from JPL’s Solar System Dynamics Planetary Satellite Mean Elements website

(11) Orbit inclination i, from JPL’s Solar System Dynamics Planetary Satellite Mean Elements website

(12) Orbit “tilt” or inclination supplemental angle i’ = i for prograde moons; i’ = 180°−i for retrograde moons

(13) From JPL’s Solar System Dynamics Planetary Satellite Mean Elements website

(14) Value from (13) in units of years, months, weeks

(15) $v=\sqrt{Gm_♄/a}$ (Gravitational constant G = 6.6741 ⋅ 10−20 kmkg−1 s−2 )

(1C) Physical parameters
Mean size(1) 13 $^{+4}_{−2}$ km Min. equatorial axes ratio(4) 1.08 Mass(6) ∼ 5.4 ⋅ 1014 kg
Mean radius(2) ∼ 6.4 km Axes radii (a × b × c)(5) unknown Mean density(7) 0.5 g/cm3 (?)
 Equatorial circumference(3)  ∼ 40 km Surface escape velocity(8) ∼ 9 km/h
Rotation period(9) 13.03 h +/- (9) 0.14 h Spin rate(9) 1.84 d−1
Spin direction(10) unknown Pole dir. (ecliptic longitude λ)(12) unknown Pole direction (geocentric, RA)(13) unknown
Seasons(11) unknown Pole dir. (ecliptic latitude β)(12)  unknown Pole direction (geocentric, Dec)(13)  unknown
Absolute visual magnitude(14) ∼ 13.2 mag Apparent vis. mag. from Earth(15) 22.6 mag Best apparent mag. for Cassini(16) 11.8 mag
Spectral slope(17) ∼ +19.5 %/100nm BR color index(17) ∼ 1.63 / ∼ 1.40 Albedo(18) 0.06 (?)
Hill sphere radius(19) ∼ 560 km Hill sphere radius(20) ∼ 85 rIji

Notes for Table 1C:

(1) Determined from absolute visual magnitude H (see note (14)). The conversion from H to size (diameter of a reference sphere) was calculated through $D=1 \text{ au}\cdot \frac{2}{\sqrt{A}}\cdot 10^{−0.2·(H−M_☉)}$; with solar apparent V magnitude M = −26.71 ± 0.02 mag and Astronomical Unit 1 au = 149 597 870.7 km. For Ijiraq’s albedo, see note (18). Due to the uncertain input values, a size determined this way may be uncertain to ∼ −15/+30% (for A ± 0.02 and H ± 0.1).

(2) Half the diameter value. While the diameter is the intuitive size number, the radius r is mainly used in formulas to calculate other quantities. Important: While the given number is the formal result from the equation of note (1), the true precision is much lower (also see note (1)).

(3) Estimated under assumption of a spherical equatorial circumference.

(4) Determined from the range between minima and maxima of a lightcurve obtained at low phase angle (from Table 3 in Denk et al. (2018)).

(5) Here, a is the long equatorial, b the short equatorial, and c the polar axis dimension of the reference ellipsoid. Unknown because no shape model is available yet.

(6) The mass is a very rough guess, estimated through density ρ and volume $\frac{4\pi}{3}r^3$; see notes (7) and (2).

(7) The density of Ijiraq is not known, the given number is speculative. There are indications from other Saturnian Irregular moons that these objects have quite low densities (well below 1 g/cm3), similar to comets or some of the inner small moons of Saturn. However, a higher density, maybe up to 2.5 g/cm3, cannot be ruled out.

(8) $v_{esc}=\sqrt{\frac{2GM}{R}}$; very rough guess as well since it depends on Ijiraq’s mass (note (6)) and radius (notes (1) and (2)) which are not well known. = 6.674 · 1011 mkg−1 s−2 (Gravitational constant).

(9) Rotation period P and error determined with Cassini data; from Table 3 in Denk and Mottola (2018). See the lightcurves section below for details. The spin rate is 24/P, measured in units of one per day.

(10) Valid entries: Prograde (counterclockwise as seen from north), retrograde (clockwise as seen from north), ‘lying on the side’ (pole direction almost perpenticular to ecliptic pole), or ‘unknown’.

(11) Valid entries: “None” (rotation axis points close to one of the ecliptic poles), “moderate” (rotation axis is moderately tilted), or “extreme” (rotation axis is highly tilted, points somewhere close to the ecliptic equator), or ‘unknown’.

(12) —


(14) From Table 2 in Denk et al. (2018); the number may be uncertain by several tenths of magnitude. The absolute visual magnitude HV is the magnitude (brightness) of an object (in the visible wavelength range) if located 1 au away from the sun and observed at 0° phase angle (i.e., in this definition, the observer virtually sits at the center of the sun). The magnitude scale is logarithmic, with an object of 6th mag being 100x darker than a 1st mag object.

(15) Apparent visual magnitude V; from Table 2 in Denk et al. (2018).

(16) From Table 2 in Denk and Mottola (2018). Given is the best apparent magnitude as seen from Cassini at a time when an observation took place.

(17) Color information: Mean spectral slope S’2 is from Table 3 in Grav and Bauer (2007). B−R color index: First value from Grav and Bauer (2007), second value from Graykowski and Jewitt (2018). The higher the value, the “redder” the color of the object. Mean wavelengths: 445 nm for B (“blue”), 658 nm for R (“red”) filters. BR of the Sun is 1.01 (Ramírez et al. 2012).

(18) Might vary by ±0.03; see discussions in Grav et al. (2015) and Denk et al. (2018).

(19) Hill radius at periapsis under the assumption of the given density (see note (7)). The number would be larger for a higher density, or lower for a lower density.

(20) Hill radius at periapsis in Ijiraq-radius units. With $R_{Hill}=\sqrt[3]{4\pi\rho_{Iji}/9m_♄}\cdot r_{Iji↔♄}$, this number only depends on the object’s distance to the central body (Saturn; linear dependency) and on the object’s density (proportional to the cubic root; see also note (7)).

(9) References for Ijiraq

IAU circular, discovery: no. 7521
IAU circular, naming: no. 8177
Wikipedia: Ijiraq (moon) Ijiraq (Mond)
My ‘Outer Moons of Saturn’ website: Sheet ‘links and references’
The story of Ijiraq on YouTube: Hide and Sneak (Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak (Author), Vladyana Langer Krykorka (Illustrator); read by Kathy Scheck)

References (that include my work)

Denk, T., Mottola, S. (2019): Studies of Irregular Satellites: I. Lightcurves and Rotation Periods of 25 Saturnian Moons from Cassini Observations. Icarus 322, 80-103. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2018.12.040
Denk, T., Mottola, S., Tosi, F., Bottke, W.F., Hamilton, D.P. (2018): The Irregular Satellites of Saturn. In: Enceladus and the Icy Moons of Saturn (Schenk, P.M., Clark, R.N., Howett, C.J.A., Verbiscer, A.J., Waite, J.H., editors), Space Science Series, The University of Arizona Press, pp. 409-434.
Denk, T., Mottola, S. (2018 EPSC): Cassini Observations of Saturn’s Irregular Moons. European Planetary Science Congress, EPSC2018−103, Berlin, 16−21 Sep 2018.

References (work from colleagues)

Bauer, J.M., Grav, T., Buratti, B.J., Hicks, M.D. (2006): The phase curve survey of the irregular saturnian satellites: A possible method of physical classification. Icarus 184, 181-197.
Grav, T., Bauer, J. (2007): A deeper look at the colors of the saturnian irregular satellites. Icarus 191, 267−285.
Graykowski, A., Jewitt, D. (2018): Colors and Shapes of the Irregular Planetary Satellites. Astron. J. 155(184), 10 pp.
Porco, C.C. West, R.A., Squyres, S.W., McEwen, A.S., Thomas, P.C., Murray, C.D., Del Genio, A., Ingersoll, A.P., Johnson, T.V., Neukum, G., Veverka, J., Dones, L., Brahic, A., Burns, J.A., Haemmerle, V., Knowles, B., Dawson, D., Roatsch, Th., Beurle, K., Owen, W. (2004): Cassini imaging science: Instrument characteristics and capabilities and anticipated scientific investigations at Saturn. Space Sci. Rev. 115, 363-497.

© Tilmann Denk (2023)