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Paaliaq: Overview
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Paaliaq is one of five known members of the Inuit group of moons, which orbit Saturn at a mean distance of 11 to 18 million km, at inclinations between 40 and 50 degrees from the plane of Saturn's equator, and with eccentricities of 0.15 to 0.48. (A satellite's eccentricity is a number between 0 and 1 which describes the shape of the orbit. The closer to 0, the more circular it is; the closer to 1, the more elongated.)

The Inuit moons all have prograde orbits (they travel around Saturn in the same direction as the planet's rotation), but their deviations from circular orbits and from the plane of Saturn's equator classify them as "irregular" satellites. Like Saturn's other irregular moons, they are thought to be objects that were captured by Saturn's gravity, rather than having accreted from the dusty disk that surrounded the newly formed planet, as the regular satellites are thought to have done.

The similarities among the Inuit group's orbits suggest a common origin -- they may be fragments of a single object that shattered in a collision. The other members of this group are Kiviuq, Ijiraq, Siarnaq, and Tarqeq.

Observations by Tommy Grav and James Bauer using telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii in 2006 (before the discovery of Tarqeq) found that Kiviuq, Siarnaq and Paaliaq all are light red with similar infrared features, further supporting the idea of a common origin.

Paaliaq has a mean radius of about 11 km, assuming an albedo of 0.06. At a mean distance of 15 million km from Saturn, the satellite takes about 688 Earth days to complete one orbit.

Discovery:
Paaliaq was discovered on 7 August 2000 by Brett J. Gladman, John J. Kavelaars, Jean-Marc Petit, Hans Scholl, Matthew J. Holman, Brian G. Marsden, Phillip D. Nicholson, and Joseph A. Burns at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile. They discovered Ymir and Kiviuq at the same time.

How Paaliaq Got its Name:
Originally called S/2000 S2, Paaliaq was named for a fictional Inuit shaman in the book, "The Curse of the Shaman" by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak and Vladyana Langer Krykorka. Kusugak is responsible for the names of four of the five known moons in the Inuit group. He wrote the book from which the name Ijiraq was taken, and he suggested the names Kiviuq and Siarnaq, which came from Inuit legend and mythology.

Just the Facts
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Mass:  8.2427 x 1015 kg
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Last Updated: 11 Apr 2011